8 US soldiers killed in Iraq violence |
At least 17 US soldiers have been killed around Iraq since Saturday, including eight in a single day in Baghdad, the US military announced, saying the toll had brought "a tragic day".
The toll represents a dramatic spike for US casualties in Iraq which generally average no more than a couple of wounded a day, especially for the Baghdad-based forces.
"I don't have any comparative figures," said Lieutenant Colonel Barry Johnson, who declined to say whether the toll was an increase. "We have tragic days and this was a tragic day."
Monday saw four soldiers killed when their vehicle was obliterated by a roadside bomb in northwest Baghdad, as well as four soldiers killed by small arms fire in various other spots throughout the city.
Since August, there have been many more US soldiers operating across Baghdad as part of the "phase two" of the Iraqi government's four-month-old Operation Together Forward to restore stability to the war-torn capital.
US soldiers, together with Iraqi security forces, are flooding some of the city's most troubled neighbourhoods and engaging in house-to-house searches for unlicensed weapons and insurgents.
Seven of the other US casualties since Saturday have been in the western Al-Anbar province, the centre of a fierce anti-US insurgency that generally claims the lion's share of fatalities.
Since the summer, there has been an increase in US deaths there as well, though US military sources in the province say this is because of increased efforts to quash rebel strongholds in the towns of Ramadi, Hit and Haditha.
The number of US servicemen that have died since the March 2003 invasion is 2,723 according to an AFP count based on Pentagon figures.
Violence targeting ordinary Iraqis has been higher than usual as well, with the US military reporting that suicide bombings over the past weeks have been at an all time high.
In the southern Baghdad neighbourhood of Saidiyah, a man wearing a belt of explosives blew himself up in a fish market killing two people and wounding 19, according to officials in the defence ministry.
A bomb exploded near a well-known Shiite mosque in the middle class neighbourhood of Karrada, killing one person and wounding nine, while another bomb claimed two lives in the northern neighbourhood of Qahira.
In addition to bombs, Baghdad residents have to watch out for mortar shells as militants in rival neighbourhoods fire indiscriminately at each other's residents.
One person was killed and another wounded in the Abu Chir neighbourhood in southern Baghdad, while 10 people were wounded in a mortar attack in Mussayib, some 60km south of the capital.
In nearby Baquba, capital of Diyalah province, the same brutal sectarian-driven violence was manifest with nine people being killed in various incidents around the city.
Police also discovered on a highway north Baquba seven bodies of a father, his five children and a nephew, bound and shot through the head. The Shiite family had been kidnapped earlier by gunmen.
Three bodies also turned up just south of the northern oil city of Kirkuk.