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Six more U.S. soldiers killed in Iraq

The U.S. military announced day the deaths of six more soldiers in Iraq, hours after President Bush predicted a bloody summer lay ahead.
/ Source: Reuters

The U.S. military announced day the deaths of six more soldiers in Iraq, hours after President Bush predicted a "bloody" summer lay ahead.

Five of the soldiers died on Thursday while another was killed on Tuesday by a roadside bomb in Tikrit, 110 miles north of Baghdad, the military said.

April was the worst month this year for the U.S. military since the invasion to topple Saddam Hussein in 2003, with 104 soldiers killed. About 90 have been killed in May so far.

The total death toll for U.S. troops since the invasion now stands at 3,440.

Crackdown in major urban areas
The U.S. military has deployed thousands of extra troops around Baghdad and other areas in a last-ditch attempt to drag Iraq from the brink of all-out sectarian civil war between majority Shiites and Sunni Arabs dominant under Saddam.

The crackdown is an attempt to buy time for Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s government to meet political benchmarks set by Washington, including a revenue-sharing oil law, aimed at promoting national reconciliation.

Bush told a news conference in Washington on Thursday he expected heavy fighting in Iraq in the weeks and months ahead.

“It could be a bloody -- it could be a very difficult August,” Bush told reporters.

He predicted insurgents and Sunni Islamist al-Qaida would try to influence the U.S. debate on the war by launching major attacks before Gen. David Petraeus, the commander of U.S. forces in Iraq, hands him a progress report in September.

A CBS News/New York Times poll said 76 percent of Americans thought the war was going badly for the United States.

Roadside bomb
In the worst attack Thursday, two soldiers died when their patrol was hit by a roadside bomb in western Baghdad. An Iraqi interpreter was also killed and another U.S. soldier was wounded, the military said in a statement.

Increasingly sophisticated roadside bombs remain by far the biggest killer of U.S. forces in Iraq.

Another soldier was killed by a roadside bomb in Nineveh province near Tikrit. Two others were wounded in the attack.

The military had earlier reported the deaths of one soldier from small arms fire in volatile Diyala province -- where the U.S. military has also sent thousands of extra troops -- and another from a roadside bomb in nearby Salahaddin province.

The U.S. military has said it anticipated it would suffer more casualties when it launched the security crackdown three months ago.

Marine General Peter Pace, chairman of the U.S. joint chiefs of staff, said sectarian murders had risen in May but were still well below levels before the security crackdown was launched.

He told a Pentagon news conference just over 1,400 civilian deaths were recorded in January, with 800 in February and just over 500 in March and about the same in April.

But he said the number of sectarian killings had risen by between 20 and 30 percent in May.

The Washington Post on Thursday cited morgue data which said 321 unidentified corpses had been found across Baghdad this month. Iraqi police said 63 bodies had been found around Baghdad in two days earlier this week.