- The Washington Times - Tuesday, December 26, 2006

12:08 p.m.

BAGHDAD — The U.S. military announced the deaths of six American soldiers today as at least 36 Iraqis died in bombings, including a coordinated strike that killed 25 in western Baghdad.

The six deaths pushed the U.S. military death toll since the beginning of the Iraq war in March 2003 to at least 2,977 — four more than the number killed in the September 11 attacks.

Three coordinated car bombs in western Baghdad injured at least 55 persons, a doctor at Yarmouk hospital, where the victims were taken, said on the condition of anonymity because of safety concerns. The attacks occurred in a mixed Sunni and Shiite neighborhood.

In separate attacks, a bomb exploded in a central Baghdad market, killing four persons and wounding 15, police said. Two roadside bombs targeted an Iraqi police patrol in an eastern neighborhood of the capital, killing four policemen and injuring 12 persons.

In Kirkuk, 180 miles north of the Iraqi capital, a roadside bomb killed three civilians — including an 8-year-old girl — and wounded six others, police said.

American troops fought gunmen in a Shi’ite militia stronghold in east Baghdad today, witnesses said.

Fighters loyal to the anti-American cleric Muqtada al-Sadr were engaged in the clashes with U.S. forces in and near Sadr City, an official in Sheik al-Sadr’s office said on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to reporters.

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.

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.

Maj. Burbridge previously had said just 76 prisoners were in the station but later said soldiers miscounted the prisoners because the operation was done under cover of darkness.

The milestone in the U.S. troop deaths came with a military announcement that three soldiers had been killed yesterday. Three more service members were killed today in roadside bombings near Baghdad, the military said.

President Bush has said that the Iraq war is part of the United States’ post-September 11 approach to threats abroad. Going on the offense against enemies before they could harm Americans meant removing the Taliban from power in Afghanistan, pursuing members of al Qaeda and seeking regime change in Iraq, Mr. Bush has said.

There has been no direct evidence of links between Saddam Hussein’s regime and the September 11 attacks.

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