BAGHDAD, Iraq -- U.S. military officials announced the deaths of seven American troops yesterday and at least five Iraqis were killed and 26 injured in a car bombing, as the fourth anniversary of the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq neared.
Four soldiers died in a single incident in west Baghdad on Saturday, when a roadside bomb detonated during their patrol.
Separately, a U.S. Marine was killed in combat in Anbar province Saturday, and another soldier was killed by a roadside bomb Friday during a foot patrol in south Baghdad. The military said it was investigating the death of another soldier, who died Saturday in "noncombat" circumstances. The military declined to release other details about the incidents.
The deaths brought the total number of U.S. military casualties in Iraq to 3,218 since the U.S. launched its attack March 19, 2003, according to the Web site icasualties.org.
Scattered violence was reported yesterday in the capital and beyond. No single incident dominated, but the toll was exacting nonetheless. Taken together, the attacks raised questions about if, or when, it would be possible to halt violence by military means.
A month-old security crackdown has been somewhat successful at reducing death-squad killings attributed mainly to Shiite militias - police reported finding five bodies with bullet wounds around Baghdad yesterday, far fewer than on many days before the new plan took effect. But it has failed to stop the car bombings and mass-casualty suicide attacks that are a hallmark of Sunni Arab insurgents - a more difficult proposition, dependent on intelligence gleaned from informants that enables security forces to root out bomb factories and insurgent strongholds.
The car bomb in the Sook Shallal neighborhood of northeastern Baghdad exploded late in the afternoon in a crowded area where Shiites were preparing food for sunset prayers. Witnesses said the assailant was forced to park on the opposite side of the street because he could not get closer to the crowd. That limited the carnage, the witnesses said.
Insurgents also attacked the Shoorja market in eastern Baghdad yesterday, killing two people with grenades hurled from apartment buildings across the street. Shoorja was the site of a double-car bomb attack in February that killed 71 and injured 164; since then, officials had closed it to foot traffic only.
Meanwhile, a top Iraqi military official said in a news conference yesterday that traces of explosive materials used to make bombs were found in four cars belonging to prominent Sunni politician Dhafir El-Ani, a member of the Iraqi Accordance Front, the largest Sunni Arab bloc in Parliament. The official, Brig. Gen. Qassim Atta Mousawi, also said 65 guns were found and one of seven guards initially detained was still being held.
El-Ani disputed the accusations in an interview on the Al-Arabyia news network last night, saying his cars recently had been to the heavily guarded Green Zone in Baghdad and that no explosives had been detected. He said his guards had been tortured during questioning and that all of the guns were licensed.
A statement attributed to Muqtada al-Sadr, the radical Shiite cleric, was issued yesterday calling on Muslims to stop killing one another.
"No one is better than another," it said. "These are acts that would not please God and his prophet."
In Fallujah, insurgents blew up a building used as an observation post by the Iraqi Army, killing two Iraqi soldiers and wounding 11.
Gunmen in a car in Baghdad killed one and wounded three at Rusafi Square, not far from the Mutanabi Street book market bombing attack that killed 30 people earlier this month.
Christian Berthelsen writes for the Los Angeles Times. Times staff writers Saif Hameed, Raheem Salman, Suhail Almad and Zeena Karim contributed to this article, as well as special correspondents in Baghdad and Fallujah.