- The Washington Times - Friday, June 22, 2007

BAGHDAD — The U.S. military said 15 U.S. troops have died in multiple attacks during the past three days, including five killed yesterday in a single roadside bombing in Baghdad.

Elsewhere, a suicide truck bomber struck the Sulaiman Bek City Hall in a predominantly Sunni area of northern Iraq, killing at least 16 persons and wounding 67, an Iraqi commander said.

Thousands of protesters rallied in the Shi’ite holy city of Najaf, 100 miles south of Baghdad, waving Iraqi flags and the black and green Shi’ite banners with slogans such as “Death to al Qaeda” in a show of unity after the bombing that brought down the twin minarets of a revered mosque in Samarra.

The latest U.S. deaths raised to at least 3,545 the number of American troops killed since the war began in 2003, according to an Associated Press count.

The deadliest attack was a roadside bomb that struck a convoy in northeastern Baghdad yesterday, killing five U.S. soldiers, three Iraqi civilians and one Iraqi interpreter, the military said.

A rocket-propelled grenade struck a vehicle in northern Baghdad about 12:30 p.m. yesterday, killing one soldier and wounding three others, another statement said.

On Wednesday, a powerful roadside bomb killed four U.S. soldiers and wounded another in western Baghdad, while two Marines died in fighting in Anbar province, to the west of the capital.

Southwest of Baghdad, two soldiers were killed and four were wounded Tuesday when explosions occurred near their vehicle, the military said, correcting an earlier statement that gave the date of the attack as Wednesday.

Counting a previously announced U.S. fatality recorded Tuesday, the latest military statements meant that 15 troops were killed over a three-day period.

At the Vatican yesterday, Pope Benedict XVI said he was greatly concerned about the fate of Christians in Iraq, returning to a theme that he had discussed with President Bush earlier this month.

The pope also denounced the slaying of a Catholic priest in Iraq as a “barbaric killing” and lamented the overall escalating violence in the Middle East for the second time in a week.

“Particularly in Iraq, the homeland of so many of the Assyrian faithful, Christian families and communities are feeling increasing pressure from insecurity, aggression and a sense of abandonment,” the pope said during an audience with the patriarch of the Assyrian Church of the East.

The explosion in Sulaiman Bek occurred about 10:30 a.m., and killed 16 persons, Maj. Gen. Anwar Hama Amin said. The commander of the Iraqi army’s 2nd Brigade blamed the blast on al Qaeda, saying it was the latest in a series of strikes by the terror network against government officials, whom they accuse of collaborating with the U.S. and the Iraqi government.

Sulaiman Bek is about 100 miles north of the capital and just outside the border with Diyala province, where thousands of U.S. troops are engaged in an offensive against al Qaeda in Iraq.

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