Image: Iraq Easter
Loay Hameed  /  AP
An Iraqi Christian prays during Easter Mass inside a church in south Baghdad's Dora neighborhood, on Sunday.
updated 4/12/2009 8:43:57 AM ET 2009-04-12T12:43:57

A roadside bomb killed an American soldier north of Baghdad on Sunday, the U.S. military said — the sixth U.S. combat death in the last three days.

The bombing reflected still-persistent dangers across Iraq, even as U.S. battle deaths have dropped sharply since 2007 and Christians around the country gathered to celebrate Easter.

A statement said only that the soldier was mortally wounded in a roadside bombing in Salahuddin province, north of Baghdad.

Five U.S. soldiers were killed Friday in a suicide truck bombing in the northern city of Mosul. It was the biggest loss of U.S. life in a single blast in more than a year.

At least 4,272 members of the U.S. military have died in the Iraq war since it began in March 2003, according to an Associated Press count.

Roadside bombs — I.E.D.s, or improvised explosive devices — remain a top killer of U.S soldiers here, even though the majority of the time they are targeting Iraqi security forces and civilians.

A second roadside bombing Sunday struck two cars carrying Iraqis in the Jisr Diyala area, about 10 miles (16 kilometers) southeast of Baghdad. Nine people were wounded in the explosion, including two women and a teenage boy, police said.

Dwindling Christian community celebrates Easter
Also Sunday, Iraq's dwindling Christian community celebrated Easter services, taking advantage of the improved security in Baghdad and other parts of the country.

About 200 Iraqi Christians packed the Virgin Mary Church in Baghdad's Karradah district to attend Easter Mass. At the U.S. military base Camp Liberty just outside the Iraqi capital, about 100 American troops also attended an Easter sunrise service.

Since the 2003 US-led invasion of Iraq, Christians have frequently been the target of attacks by Islamic extremists, forcing tens of thousands to flee the country. Fewer than 3 percent of Iraq's 26 million people are Christians, the majority of them Chaldean-Assyrians and Armenians, as well as a small number of Roman Catholics.

The exact number of Christians left in Iraq is unclear but they are thought to number several hundred thousand.

"God protect us and rid our country of disputes and quarrels, let it be free of hatred and hostilities," one of Iraq's senior Christians, Chaldean Cardinal Emmanuel III Delly, said during the Easter service in Baghdad's Mansour district, broadcast on Iraqi state television.

Security stepped up in Mosul
Iraqi troops stepped up security around churches in Mosul, where Friday's truck bombing also killed two Iraqi policemen and wounded 62 others, but many Christians stayed home, avoiding public places and celebrating the holiday in private.

George Matti, 65, from Mosul's eastern al-Zuhor neighborhood, attended Mass at the local Chaldean church and then hurried home to his wife and five sons and their families.

"We are asking Jesus to help our beloved Iraq and to help all Christians inside and outside Iraq to return to their homes," said Matti, urging authorities to fulfill their promise to secure the city, 225 miles (360 kilometers) north of Baghdad.

Copyright 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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