Three more U.S. Marines were killed in battle in Iraq, the U.S. military said Friday, making December the deadliest month this year for American troops in the war-wracked nation with the toll reaching 106.
The Marines, all assigned to Regimental Combat Team 5, died Thursday of wounds from fighting in western Anbar province, the U.S. military said. Their deaths pushed the toll past the 105 U.S. service members killed in October.
At least 2,993 members of the U.S. military have been killed since the Iraq war began in March 2003, according to an AP count.
In violence Friday, a suicide bomber killed at least nine people near a Shiite mosque north of Baghdad, and 32 tortured bodies were found across the country as Iraqis braced for Saddam Hussein's execution.
American troops killed six people and destroyed a weapons cache in separate raids in Baghdad and northwest of the Iraqi capital, the U.S. military said. One of the raids targeted two buildings in the village of Thar Thar, where U.S. troops found 16 pounds of homemade explosives, two large bombs, a rocket-propelled grenade, suicide vests and multiple batteries, the military said.
Iraqi forces backed by U.S. troops entered a mosque southeast of Baghdad, capturing 13 suspects and confiscating weapons, the U.S. military also said.
A suicide bomber wearing an explosives belt detonated himself near a Shiite mosque in Khalis, 80 kilometers (50 miles) north of Baghdad, killing nine people and wounding about a dozen, police said.
Twenty-two bodies showing signs of torture were found dumped on the streets of the Iraqi capital Friday, and 10 more were found in Baqouba northeast of Baghdad, police and morgue officials said.
The violence was not heavier than usual in Iraq on Friday, three days after an Iraqi appeals court upheld Saddam's death sentence for the 1982 killings of 148 Shiites. The court said the former president should be hanged within 30 days, but his execution appeared likely to take place this weekend, American and Iraqi officials said.
Those officials have also expressed concern about the potential for a spike in bloodshed following Saddam's death.
Already, December was shaping up to be one of the worst months for Iraqi civilian deaths since The Associated Press began keeping track in May 2005.
Through Thursday, at least 2,139 Iraqis have been killed in war-related or sectarian violence, an average rate of about 76 people a day, according to an AP count. That compares to at least 2,184 killed in November at an average of about 70 a day, the worst month for Iraqi civilians deaths since May 2005. In October, AP counted at least 1,216 civilians killed.
The AP count includes civilians, government officials and police and security. forces, and is considered a minimum based on AP reporting. The actual number is likely higher, as many killings go unreported.