- The Washington Times - Monday, November 29, 2004

BAGHDAD — Terrorists stepped up attacks on Iraq’s fledgling security forces, killing seven Iraqi police and guardsmen yesterday in a suicide bombing hours after storming a police station north of the capital. The military reported five new U.S. deaths.

Military offensives in Fallujah and elsewhere have made November the second deadliest month for U.S. troops since the March 2003 invasion, with at least 130 American dead.

Yesterday’s suicide attack occurred in Baghdadi, a Euphrates River town about 120 miles northwest of the capital, where a driver detonated his vehicle near a police checkpoint, police Lt. Mohammed al-Fehdawi said. A hospital official, Hatim Ahmed, confirmed seven police and Iraqi national guard members were killed and nine were wounded.

Late Sunday, gunmen stormed a police station west of Samarra, 60 miles north of Baghdad, looted the armory, commandeered several police cars and fled after encountering no resistance, Iraqi officials said. U.S. troops went to the police station yesterday morning and arrested two dozen persons, police said.

Two American soldiers from Task Force Baghdad were killed and three wounded yesterday in a roadside bomb explosion in northwestern Baghdad, the U.S. command said. One American soldier died and two were injured in a vehicle accident 30 miles northwest of the town of Kut in eastern Iraq, the military said.

In addition, two U.S. Marines were killed in a weekend bombing south of the capital, a U.S. official said. U.S., British and Iraqi forces have been sweeping through the area to clear Sunni insurgents from a string of towns and cities between Baghdad and the Shi’ite shrine cities of Najaf and Karbala.

The offensive, called Operation Plymouth Rock, was launched in part as a follow-up to this month’s assault on Fallujah, the main insurgent bastion 40 miles west of Baghdad.

U.S. commanders want to cut off an escape route for Fallujah fighters and pacify the area so that national elections can be held Jan. 30.

The Pentagon said yesterday the U.S. military death toll in Iraq stands at 1,251, up by 21 since the last reported toll released Wednesday. That means at least 130 U.S. troops have died in Iraq this month. The deadliest month for U.S. troops in Iraq was April, when 135 died.

In Geneva, the International Red Cross said Iraq’s Red Crescent had set up a relief center in Fallujah to aid civilians, but doctors and nurses have been unable to treat the wounded because of continued fighting between U.S.-led forces and insurgents.

At the Pentagon, spokesman Bryan Whitman said American troops in Fallujah reported finding nearly as many homemade explosives in the past three weeks as had been uncovered throughout Iraq in the previous four months.

Mr. Whitman said that in the Fallujah operations, troops found at least 650 homemade bombs, compared with 722 found throughout the country between July 1 and Oct. 31.

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