BAGHDAD, Iraq - Iraqi insurgents killed four American soldiers and assassinated a Baghdad judge yesterday while beleaguered government officials and U.S. military leaders worked to shift attention from the violence to the efforts to rebuild the country.
The soldiers died when their vehicle struck a roadside bomb in the city of Samarra, about 75 miles north of Baghdad, according to the U.S. military.
The attack occurred on a dirt road in the southern section of the city, which was once home to the largest mosque in the Islamic world but more recently has become a frequent flashpoint in the insurgency. Military officials did not provide further details.
U.S. military deaths in Iraq since the March 2003 invasion now total 1,864, according to the Associated Press. This month, there have been at least 59 fatalities, surpassing July's total and on track to pass the 77 recorded in June.
Also yesterday, Jasim Waheeb, an investigative judge from a Baghdad appellate court, and his driver were shot to death in the capital's Dora neighborhood less than two miles from the heavily protected Green Zone that is home to the Iraqi government.
Waheeb, described as a man without strong sectarian affiliations, was assassinated by unknown gunmen while leaving his home, according to the Interior Ministry.
"I'm very upset," said Najat Zabaidi, a Baghdad lawyer who knew Waheeb and blamed the killing on "those terrorists who want to sabotage the country."
West of the capital, the governor of the troubled Anbar province escaped injury when gunmen attacked local leaders who were meeting at a mosque in the city of Ramadi to discuss the efforts to write a new national constitution.
Nine people were injured in the attack, including four from the Sunni Waqf, or religious endowment, and five guards, the Interior Ministry said.
The violence came a day after a series of car bombings killed 43 people in what appeared to be a targeted attack on Shiite Muslims designed to incite sectarian strife in the country.
The top U.S. commander in the Middle East, Gen. John Abizaid, discussed the security situation yesterday with President Jalal Talabani and afterward said U.S. and Iraqi forces would "continue the fight against these people that are killing innocent Iraqis day after day after day for no reason other than to try to grab the headlines."
"We must fight the terrorists together so that we can have a free and prosperous future for the Iraqi people," Abizaid said.
Gen. George Casey, the senior U.S. commander in Iraq, identified "foreign fighters and the Iraqis that support them" as the greatest threat to Iraq over the next six months to a year.
"They are the ones that are killing Iraqi people on a daily basis," Casey said. "We are focusing our military operations against them."
In the highly fortified Green Zone yesterday, leading spokesmen for the U.S. military and the Iraqi government presented what they said were positive developments in the country.
"We believe we are on the right glide path," Maj. Gen. Rick Lynch, deputy chief of staff in Iraq, said as he ticked off reconstruction projects, tallied insurgents and weapons captured, and discussed a new feature titled Successes This Week in Iraq, which appears on a military Web site.
The site, assembled by the U.S. Central Command and appearing at www.centcom.mil, highlights refurbished schools, medical screenings for children, a new monument to Iraqi soldiers and a new 250-officer police station in Samarra.
However, Iraqi spokesman Laith Kubba complained that his government was having a hard time getting the message out.
The Los Angeles Times is a Tribune Publishing newspaper. The Associated Press contributed to this article.