updated 1/21/2007 3:37:11 AM ET 2007-01-21T08:37:11

At least 19 U.S. troops were killed in Iraq on Saturday, the deadliest day for American forces in two years and at a time of building congressional opposition to President Bush's decision to dispatch of more than 20,000 additional soldiers to the conflict.

The Saturday toll was the third highest of any day since the war began in March 2003, eclipsed only by 37 U.S. deaths on Jan. 26, 2005, and 28 on the third day of the U.S. invasion.

Saturday's carnage included 12 service members killed in a helicopter crash northeast of the capital, five in a militia attack on a provincial government center in Karbala and two others in roadside bombings.

The military said the helicopter crashed northeast of Baghdad but gave no other specifics, except to say the incident was under investigation.

Army Lt. Col. Josslyn Aberle, a military spokeswoman in Baghdad, said the cause of the crash was not known. Navy Capt. Frank Pascual, a military spokesman in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, said the craft was a Blackhawk helicopter and was believed to have suffered technical troubles before going down. He spoke to Al-Arabiya satellite television from its Dubai studios.

A bomb struck a small bus headed to a predominantly Shiite area in Baghdad on Sunday, killing six passengers and wounding 10, police said.

The bus was en route from the Bab al-Sharqi area to the nearby commercial district of Karradah when the explosion occurred, shattering the windows of nearby stores.

The bomb was left in a bag by somebody who got off the bus, police said, giving the casualty toll.

Sirens wailed as police and ambulances rushed to the area, and rescue workers pulled the badly burned bodies from the charred bus.

Three wounded in Karbala attack
In the Karbala attack, the military said in a statement that "an illegally armed militia group" attacked the provincial headquarters building with grenades, small arms and "indirect fire," which usually means mortars or rockets. The statement said three soldiers were wounding repelling the attack.

"A meeting was taking place at the time of the attack to ensure the security of Shiite pilgrims participating in the Ashoura commemorations," said Brig. Gen. Vincent K. Brooks, deputy commander for Multi-National Division-Baghdad.

Karbala is 80 kilometers (50 miles) south of Baghdad and thousands of Shiite pilgrims are flocking to the city to mark the festivities surround the commemoration of the death of one of Shiite Islam's most sacred saints, Imam Hussein, the grandson of the Prophet Muhammad.

Brooks said the meeting was in the Provincial Joint Coordination Center in the city when the attack occurred. Iraqi officials and security forces as well as U.S. troops were present.

Earlier Saturday, Karbala governor Akeel al-Khazaali had said the U.S. troops raided the provincial headquarters looking for wanted men but left with no prisoners, apparently unable to find their target.

Brooks said that report was incorrect.

"Initial reporting by some media outlets indicated falsely that the attack was conducted by Coalition forces," the military statement said.

"The PJCC is a coordination center where local Iraqi officials, Iraqi security forces and Coalition forces (are) stationed within the center meet to address the security needs of the population," according to Brooks.

Al-Khazaali had said the American troops used stun grenades during the raid, causing people living nearby to report the building was under mortar attack. Residents reached by telephone speculated the raiding Americans were after followers of anti-American cleric Muqtada al-Sadr and said helicopters were seen flying over the main al-Sadr headquarters in Karbala well past nightfall.

Video: Bush, advisers discuss Iraq The military statement did not mention other casualties in the attack, but said "the location has been secured by coalition and Iraqi security forces."

The helicopter crash and the Karbala attack occurred in a critical period for American forces and as an additional 21,500 troops began to arrive in Baghdad and surrounding regions.  President Bush and Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki have vowed to curb the sectarian slaughter gripping the capital in what could be a last-ditch attempt to prevent Iraq from sliding into all-out civil war.

While the military did not say precisely where the crash occurred, the roiling and extremely violent Diyala Province sits northeast of Baghdad, where U.S. and Iraqi forces have been battling Sunni insurgents and Shiite militia forces around the city of Baqouba for months.

Saturday's crash was the fourth deadliest since the start of the war. The worst crash occurred Jan 26, 2005, when a Marine transport helicopter crashed during a sandstorm in Iraq's western desert. Thirty Marines and one sailor were killed — the largest number of American service members to die in a single incident in Iraq. On the same day, six other U.S. forces died in combat for a total of 37 deaths, the largest one-day casualty toll of the war.

The second highest daily toll was on March 23, when 28 service members were killed as American forces were pushing toward Baghdad on the third day of the invasion.

Also Saturday, the military announced the deaths of one other U.S. soldier and a Marine. The soldier died Friday in Ninevah province in the north of the country. The Marine was killed Friday in Anbar province, the insurgent stronghold west of the capital.

82nd Airborne brigade arrives
A brigade of the U.S. 82nd Airborne Division, part of American buildup, has arrived in Baghdad and will be ready to join the fresh drive to quell sectarian violence in the capital by the first of the month, the American military announced on Sunday.

The 2nd Brigade of the 82nd Airborne consists of about 3,200 soldiers who will "assist Iraqi Security Forces to clear, control and retain key areas of the capital city in order to reduce violence and to set the conditions for a transition to full Iraqi control of security in the city," the military said in a statement.

In south Baghdad, U.S. helicopters dropped elite Iraqi police commandos into the dangerous Dora neighborhood in a raid on the Omar Brigade, an al-Qaida-linked Sunni militant group, Interior Ministry spokesman Abdul-Karim Khalaf said.

Khalaf said 15 insurgents were killed and five captured in an intense battle at two abandoned houses taken over by Sunni gunmen, who he blamed for a series of kidnappings and killings in a bid to cleanse the once-mixed Dora neighborhood of Shiite residents.

"We were provided with helicopter support by our friends in the multinational forces and we did not suffer any casualties," Khalaf said. U.S. aircraft gave covering fire, but the military did not respond to a request for comment on the raid.

Mahdi Army behind attack?
In the Karbala attack, the military did not name the militia, but radical Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr has a headquarters in city. Members of his Mahdi Army have been hit repeatedly in recent weeks in a series of operations in which key militia commanders have been captured or killed by U.S. and Iraqi troops.

Al-Sadr's followers voiced increasing outrage over Friday's capture of a senior aide to the radical cleric in a raid in eastern Baghdad.

Nassar al-Rubaie, the head of al-Sadr's bloc in parliament, accused U.S. forces of trying to provoke the Sadrists into violence in response to building security operation.

"We condemn strongly the arrest of Sheik Abdul-Hadi al-Darraji. He is moderate and well-known as a media personality and always available in negotiations," al-Rubaie said. "He is a peaceful man and what was mentioned in the American release is lies and justification for the aggression against al-Sadr's movement."

U.S. and Iraqi forces targeted a mosque complex before dawn and detained al-Darraji. Al-Sadr's office said al-Darraji was media director for the cleric's political movement and demanded his immediate release.

The U.S. military, in a statement that did not name al-Darraji, said special Iraqi army forces operating with U.S. advisers had "captured a high-level, illegal armed group leader" in Baghdad's Baladiyat neighborhood, next to the Mahdi Army stronghold of Sadr City. It said two other suspects were detained for further questioning.

U.S., Iraqi forces search hospital
Elsewhere in Baghdad, Iraqi police and hospital officials said a joint U.S.-Iraqi force searched a hospital in the volatile Sunni-dominated western neighborhood of Yarmouk.

The Americans confiscated weapons and ID cards from the police and guards at the hospital after a confrontation in which a guard demanded the soldiers deposit their weapons at the door.

"We resolved the matter within minutes and the Americans gave the Iraqi policemen their weapons and IDs cards back and now everything is OK," said Khalaf, the Interior Ministry spokesman.

Dr. Haqi Ismail, the hospital manager, said the raid occurred at 4:30 a.m.

"They were looking for someone, they searched all the rooms and the emergency unit," he said.

Also Saturday, police reported at least 16 Iraqis were killed in the sectarian conflict nationwide on Friday and said 29 bodies, most of them showing signs of torture, were found dumped in Baghdad. In Mosul, Iraqi's third-largest city, police said they found three corpses, also torture victims.

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