- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 26, 2006

1:33 p.m.

BAGHDAD — The number of American troops killed in Iraq in October reached the highest monthly total in a year today after four Marines and a sailor died of wounds suffered while fighting in the same Sunni insurgent stronghold.

The U.S. military said 96 U.S. troops have died so far in October, the most in one month since October 2005, when the same number was killed.

The deadliest month for U.S. forces in Iraq was November 2004, when military offenses primarily in the then-insurgent stronghold of Fallujah, 40 miles west of Baghdad, left 137 troops dead, 126 of them in combat. In January 2005, 107 U.S. troops were killed.

The U.S. military said the five service members killed in volatile Anbar province included a sailor assigned to the 3rd Naval Construction Regiment. Two of the Marines were attached to Regimental Combat Team 5, and two others to Regimental Combat Team 7. All died from wounds suffered in attacks yesterday in Anbar province, a hotbed of the Sunni insurgency.

Polls show a majority of Americans are opposed to President Bush’s handling of Iraq, and at a press conference in Washington yesterday, Mr. Bush indicated he shared the public’s frustration even as he pushed back against calls for troop withdrawals.

“I know many Americans are not satisfied with the situation in Iraq,” he said. “I’m not satisfied either.”

Gen. William B. Caldwell, the U.S. military spokesman, said there had been a marked decrease in violence in Baghdad since the end of Ramadan, the Muslim month of fasting, earlier this week.

He said violence has in the past tended to spike during that month, then fall off. He also said it was possible increased U.S. patrols and roadblocks in the search of a missing American soldier could be having an effect.

Fighting continued today with fresh clashes between Iraqi security forces and militia groups linked to major Shi’ite political parties, part of an ominous new trend adding to the violence wrought by the Sunni-led insurgency against U.S. coalition forces and their Iraqi allies.

At least five policemen were killed and 10 injured in fighting near Baqouba pitting Iraqi security forces against gunmen of the Mahdi Army militia, who are loyal to fiery anti-American Shi’ite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, police said.

Mahdi militiamen have flooded into the area 35 miles northeast of Baghdad, forcing large numbers of residents belonging to Iraq’s Sunni Arab minority to flee their homes. Mahdi fighters killed scores of Sunnis in massacres last week in the nearby city of Balad, forcing U.S. troops to return to the area after Iraqi security forces were unable to stem the bloodshed.

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