A U.S. military spokesman said three American soldiers were killed in a rocket attack on their combat outpost south of Baghdad on Wednesday. The deaths bring to 12 the number of U.S. troops killed in three days.
Navy Lt. Patrick Evans, a military spokesman, told The Associated Press that the soldiers were killed on Combat Outpost Adder near Nasiriyah, about 200 miles southeast of Baghdad.
Two other American soldiers were injured in the rocket attack. Eight American soldiers died in separate attacks on Monday and one was killed Tuesday.
Also Wednesday, four Iraqi civilians were killed and nine others injured when a roadside bomb exploded near a passing U.S. military patrol, local police said.
The deaths mark a significant rise in violence over several days that included dozens of civilians dying in sectarian violence. The bloody uptick casts doubt on the relative calm that followed a surge of U.S. forces to Baghdad last year.
According to an Associated Press count, at the height of unrest from November 2006 to August 2007, on average approximately 65 Iraqis died each day as a result of violence. As conditions improved, the daily death toll steadily declined. It reached its lowest point in more than two years on January 2008, when on average 20 Iraqis died each day.
Death toll jumps
Those numbers have since jumped. In February, approximately 26 Iraqis died each day as a result of violence, and so far in March, that number is up to 39 daily. These figures reflect the months in which people were found, and not necessarily — in the case of mass graves — the months in which they were killed.
Other recent violence includes two massive bombs last Thursday that killed 68 people in Baghdad's Karradah neighborhood, and twin car bombings on March 3 that killed 24 people in the capital.
Five of the U.S. soldiers killed Monday died while on foot patrol in central Baghdad after a suicide bomber detonated his explosives vest after approaching them.
Three others died in a roadside bombing in Diyala province, a violent province where al-Qaida in Iraq has been active.
The soldier killed Tuesday died when the patrol he was on was hit by a roadside bomb near Diwaniyah, 80 miles south of Baghdad. Two other soldiers were wounded in that blast.
Military spokesman Rear Adm. Gregory Smith said Sunday that recent violence should not be taken as evidence of "an increase or a trend of an increase."
"I think we need to continue to look at historically what has happened over the last year to really put in perspective a one-week or two-weeks' worth of activity inside Baghdad," Smith said.
Most civilian deaths over the last year were the result of sectarian violence across the country, but the Iraqi government on Wednesday announced a committee formed to explore ways citizens could sue U.S. forces involved in "unjustified killings," according to the prime minister's office.
The U.S. military declined to comment.
Bomb targeting U.S. convoy kills 16 civilians
On Tuesday, Iraqi sources said 16 passengers on a bus in southern Iraq were killed by a roadside bomb in southern Iraq. The U.S. military initially claimed no one died in the attack.
But U.S. military spokesman Maj. Gen. Kevin Bergner on Wednesday recanted that stance and said the attack was a roadside bomb aimed at a passing U.S. convoy. The bomb exploded as the convoy and bus passed in opposite directions.
Bergner could not confirm the number of casualties, but said no U.S. forces were involved in any gunfire that followed. Eyewitnesses, however, said American troops did open fire following the explosion.
"We are still working with Iraqi security forces, and those now investigating the detailed circumstances of that attack, to learn whatever else we can," Bergner said.
Dr. Hadi Badr al-Riyahi, head of the Nasiriyah provincial health directorate, confirmed that the attack on the bus traveling from Najaf to Basra killed 16 civilians and wounded 20 about 50 miles south of Nasiriyah, about 200 miles southeast of Baghdad.