Wednesday, May 23, 2007

12:12 p.m.

BAGHDAD — Roadside bombings and gun battles across Iraq killed nine U.S. servicemen, and U.S. authorities were examining a body found in a river that Iraqi police believe is a U.S. soldier seized in an ambush nearly two weeks ago, officials said today.

U.S. authorities have not determined if the body found in the Euphrates River was one of three missing American soldiers from the May 12 ambush of their patrol near Mahmudiyah, about 20 miles south of Baghdad. Four Americans and one Iraqi soldier were killed in that attack.

The military said seven soldiers and two Marines were killed in separate attacks yesterday, bringing the U.S. death toll for the month to at least 80. Last month, 104 U.S. troops were killed in Iraq.

U.S. officials had warned that American casualties were likely to increase as troops made more frequent patrols during the three-month-old U.S.-led security crackdown in Baghdad.

Six of the soldiers were killed by roadside bombs, and the seventh was killed by small-arms fire. The military said only that the two Marines were killed in combat operations in Anbar province.

In the town of Mandali, on the Iranian border 60 miles east of Baghdad, meanwhile, a suicide bomber walked into a packed market cafe and blew himself up today, killing 22 persons and wounding 13 others, police said.

The cafe in the mixed Sunni, Shi’ite and Kurdish city usually was frequented by police, but no police officers were there at the time, police said.

In another devastating attack, a suicide bomber blew himself up in the house of two brothers who were supporting a Sunni alliance opposed to al Qaeda in Anbar province, killing 10 persons, including the men, their wives and their children, police said.

The attacker, a 17-year-old neighbor, broke into the house of the two men and detonated his bomb belt about 11 p.m. yesterday in Albo Obaid, about 60 miles west of Baghdad.

The targeted men were part of the Anbar Salvation Council, a group of local Sunni tribal leaders who had banded together with government support to fight al Qaeda, police said.

More than 4,000 U.S. soldiers, backed by Iraqi forces, have been searching for more than 1 1/2 weeks for the missing Americans. U.S. and Iraqi troops endured temperatures of 115 degrees yesterday as they trudged through canals waist-deep in sewage, searching for the missing soldiers.

A senior Iraqi army officer in the Babil area said the body found today was that of an American soldier, but the U.S. military said no determination had been made.

“Iraqi police did find the body of a man whom they believe may be one of our missing soldiers,” Maj. Gen. William Caldwell told reporters. “We have received the body, and we will work diligently to determine if he is in fact one of our missing soldiers.”

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