- The Washington Times - Wednesday, November 2, 2005

BAGHDAD — A suicide bomber detonated a minibus yesterday in an outdoor market packed with shoppers ahead of a Muslim festival, killing at least 20 persons and wounding more than 60 in a Shi’ite town south of Baghdad. In separate incidents, six U.S. troops were killed, two in a helicopter crash west of the capital.

The suicide bombing in the Shi’ite-majority town of Musayyib, 40 miles south of Baghdad, heavily damaged an area with an outdoor market, a restaurant, a mosque and a bus station, police said.

The town suffered an even deadlier attack July 16, when a suicide bomber struck a gas station near the same mosque, blowing up a fuel tanker and killing nearly 100 people.

Yesterday’s blast appeared to target shoppers buying fruit and vegetables just before breaking their daily fast during Ramadan, a month of worship by Muslims.

Meanwhile, the U.S. command said a AH-1W Super Cobra attack helicopter went down about 8:10 a.m. near Ramadi, killing the two Marines aboard.

The military said the cause of the crash was being investigated. But Associated Press Television News quoted an Iraqi man who said he saw the crash and that insurgents “fired at the helicopter and shot it down.”

A U.S. warplane dropped two 500-pound bombs on a suspected insurgent command center near where the Cobra had crashed.

On Tuesday, a Marine and a sailor died in the city 70 miles west of Baghdad when their vehicle hit a roadside bomb, the U.S. command said.

In Balad, 50 miles north of Baghdad, a U.S. soldier was mortally wounded when his patrol came under small arms fire yesterday, the military said. One insurgent was killed when the American patrol returned fire and another died when a U.S. Air Force jet blasted the building where he had taken refuge, the military added.

The sixth fatality was a soldier from the Army’s Task Force Baghdad who was killed by a roadside bomb yesterday in a southern district of the capital, the military said.

The deaths raised to 2,034 the number of members of the military who have died since the beginning of the war in 2003, according to an Associated Press count.

At least 93 American service members died in October, making it the fourth-deadliest month for the troops in the war, and many were killed by homemade bombs that the Pentagon has said are becoming more powerful and technologically sophisticated.

Most of the insurgents are Sunni Arabs and, in an overture to that community, Iraqi Defense Minister Saadoun al-Dulaimi yesterday invited some officers in Saddam Hussein’s former army to enlist in the new force. The U.S. decision to disband Saddam’s 400,000-member army soon after he was ousted in April 2003 has been widely seen as a major contributor to the growth of the insurgency, which is manned by Sunni ex-soldiers.

The U.S. command said it also is stepping up training for newly arrived officers to give them the latest tactics about protecting patrols from such bombs.

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