U.S. deaths in Iraq exceed 9-11 count
By CHRISTOPHER TORCHIA, Associated Press Writer
BAGHDAD, Iraq – The number of U.S. military service members killed in Iraq has exceeded the number of victims in the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, according to an Associated Press count. Car bomb attacks, meanwhile, killed at least 25 Iraqis.
Six more American soldiers were killed in Iraq, officials said Tuesday, pushing the U.S. military death toll since the beginning of the Iraq war in March 2003 to at least 2,978 — five more than the number killed in the attacks in New York, Washington and Pennsylvania.
The milestone came with the deaths of the three soldiers Monday and three more Tuesday in roadside bomb attacks near Baghdad, the military said.
President Bush has said that the Iraq war is part of the United States’ post-Sept. 11 approach to threats abroad. Going on offense against enemies before they could harm Americans meant removing the Taliban from power in Afghanistan, pursuing members of al-Qaida and seeking regime change in Iraq, Bush has said.
Democratic leaders have said the Bush administration has gotten the U.S. bogged down in Iraq when there was no evidence of links to the Sept. 11 attacks, detracting from efforts against al-Qaida and other terrorist groups.
The AP count of those killed includes at least seven military civilians. Prior to the deaths announced Tuesday, the AP count was 15 higher than the Defense Department’s tally, last updated Friday. At least 2,377 died as a result of hostile action, according to the military’s numbers.
The British military has reported 126 deaths; Italy, 33; Ukraine, 18; Poland, 18; Bulgaria, 13; Spain, 11; Denmark, six; El Salvador, five; Slovakia, four; Estonia, Netherlands, Thailand, two each; and Australia, Hungary, Kazakhstan, Latvia, Romania, one death each.
Three car bombs killed at least 25 people and wounded 55 in a commercial area and public transport hub in western Baghdad on Tuesday morning, a doctor at Yarmouk hospital said on condition of anonymity.
Separately Tuesday, two roadside bombs targeted an Iraqi police patrol in eastern Baghdad, killing four policemen and injuring 12 people, police said.
British soldiers were on alert for reprisals a day after they raided a police station in the southern city of Basra, killing seven gunmen in an effort to stop renegade Iraqi officers from executing their prisoners.
“We fully expect more attacks on our bases and on Basra stations, but that’s nothing out of the ordinary,” Maj. Charlie Burbridge, a military spokesman, said Tuesday. “But this is part of a long-term rehabilitation of the Iraqi police service, to make it more effective and more accountable, and ultimately provide better security for the people of Basra.”
After the British stormed the police station, they removed 127 prisoners, who showed evidence of torture, then evacuated the building before blowing it up, he said.
Burbridge had previously said only 76 prisoners were in the station, but later said soldiers miscounted the prisoners because the operation was done under cover of darkness.
Some 800 of the British military’s 7,200 troops in Iraq were involved in the operation, he said.
A spokesman for Iraq’s defense minister said Monday that the Iraqi interior and defense ministries approved the Basra operation, but some members of the Basra provincial council said they were not notified.
“We object to the way the operation was conducted… There was no need to bring in such a huge number of forces and break down the station,” council member Hakim al-Maiyahi told The Associated Press.
Burbridge acknowledged the council members’ concerns, but said British officials had alerted the provincial governor, Mohammed al-Waili, who approved the operation.
“He told us it was the right thing — the way forward. He supported our activity,” Burbridge said.
Al-Waili refused to comment on the matter.
Christians attended Christmas services in Baghdad and northern Iraq, home to most of Iraq’s 800,000 Christians. Some in Baghdad stayed home on Monday, however, fearing violence.
Christians are on the fringes of the conflict, which mostly involves Shiite Muslims and Sunni Arabs, but they have been targeted by Islamic militants.
“I hope next year will bring good things and unite all Iraqis because there is no difference between Christians and Muslims,” said Abu Fadi, a worshipper who does not use his Christian name because he fears for his safety. “May God bring relief from this.”
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