Four U.S. Army soldiers and a U.S. Marine were killed in roadside bombings in Iraq, the military said Thursday, while at least four Iraqis were killed when a suicide bomber attacked a U.S. military convoy.
The roadside blast that killed four U.S. troops hit the Task Force Liberty 42nd Infantry Division combat patrol at about 7:45 p.m. Wednesday near Balad, 50 miles north of Baghdad, the military said. The Marine was killed by a suicide car bomb on Wednesday in the vicinity of Karabila, in western Iraq near the Syrian border.
The attack raised to at least 1,987 the number of members of the U.S. military who have died since the beginning of the Iraq war in March 2003, according to an Associated Press count.
That total includes another 42nd Infantry Division soldier who was killed and four who were wounded when their vehicle was hit by a roadside bomb at about 6 p.m. Wednesday near Tikrit, 80 miles north of Baghdad, the military said.
The names of the soldiers were being withheld pending notification of their relatives.
In the suicide bombing, at least four Iraqi civilians were killed and 14 wounded, police said.
There was no immediate word on any U.S. casualties in the attack, which happened in Baquba, about 40 miles north of Baghdad.
Abducted journalist freed
In other developments, a reporter for British newspaper The Guardian was freed Thursday, a day after he was kidnapped, a person involved in winning his release said.
The Guardian newspaper confirmed from London that Rory Carroll was released unharmed.
A resident of Baghdad's Sadr City neighborhood said Caroll was kidnapped by criminals and that a group of Sadr City residents raided the area in which he was held and freed him.
On Wednesday, insurgents killed 19 people in Iraq, including six Shiites who were lined up at a factory and gunned down in front of their fellow workers, police said.
Election officials shot
The day’s fatalities also included three election commission officials who were shot and killed on the outskirts of the capital in Abu Ghraib, as they drove home after another round of counting ballots from last weekend’s constitutional referendum, police said.
Iraqis are still awaiting the outcome of last weekend’s referendum, as the slower-than-expected vote counting continued. Questions about the integrity of the vote and delays in getting marked ballots to the capital mean final results from the landmark vote won’t be announced until Friday at the earliest, officials said.
The returns have raised questions over the possibility of irregularities in the balloting — and have prompted an audit into an irregularly high number of “yes” votes.
In Washington, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice heralded the constitutional referendum and said the U.S. strategy in Iraq was to “clear areas from insurgent control, hold them securely, and build durable, national Iraqi institutions.”
Rice told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee the United States is working to dismantle the insurgent network and disrupt foreign support for them, maintain security in areas insurgents no longer hold, and build national institutions to “sustain security forces, bring rule of law, visibly deliver essential services, and offer the Iraqi people hope for a better economic future.”
‘Triangle of Death’
Wednesday’s worst insurgent attack occurred in a mostly Sunni region south of Baghdad known as the Triangle of Death because of all its militant groups.
About nine militants barged into a building materials factory near Iskandariyah, 30 miles south of Baghdad, lined up all the workers and forced the six Shiite ones to identify themselves, said police Lt. Colonel Khalil Mohammed. The militants then tied up the hands of Shiites, shot them to death in front of the other workers, and fled in several stolen company cars, Mohammed said.
Insurgents opened fire on a police checkpoint near the Hai Al-Adil highway in a western Baghdad, killing four policemen and wounding 11, said police Capt. Qassim Hassan. The fighting continued for several hours, and it was not immediately known if any militants were hurt, Hassan said.
In other attacks in Baghdad on Wednesday, insurgents shot and killed Hakim Mirza, a municipal director, and his driver, in the Dora neighborhood, and Muhsin Chitheer in front of his home in the al-I’alam area, police said. Chitheer was a lieutenant colonel in the Iraqi army that U.S. forces disbanded after invading in 2003.