- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 4, 2009

BAGHDAD | Insurgents attacked the main U.S.-Iraqi base Tuesday in the northern city of Mosul, killing one American soldier and striking directly at the Iraqi command center for an offensive against the militants.

The barrage underscored the resilience of al Qaeda in Iraq and other groups after repeated attempts to break their hold in Mosul, a dangerous city where at least seven U.S. soldiers have been killed since early February.

With the U.S. combat role in Iraq set to end in August 2010, Mosul represents one of the key remaining showdowns with insurgents. American military planners have backed up Iraqi forces in the crackdown launched last month.

The attack Tuesday hit Forward Operating Base Diamondback in southern Mosul, according to the U.S. military.

Initial reports indicate it was a rocket attack, the U.S. military said. Rockets have hit U.S. forces in and around Baghdad, but much less frequently in Mosul and surrounding areas.

Iraqi police, however, described the attack as mortar strikes.

The site includes the Iraqi security command for the entire province.

Insurgents have targeted forces with repeated roadside bombings and suicide attacks.

Last month, a suicide car bomber struck a U.S. patrol in Mosul, killing four American soldiers and an Iraqi interpreter in the deadliest single attack against U.S. forces in nine months. Then last week, two Iraqi policemen opened fire on visiting U.S. soldiers, killing one American in an attack that deepened worries of possible infiltration of security forces.

Despite the clashes in Mosul, violence has leveled off nationwide.

Casualties among Iraqi civilians and security forces in February hit their second-lowest mark in nearly four years with 283 deaths linked to war-related violence, according to an Associated Press tally.

The figure was an increase from the lowest death count: 242 in January. The deadliest month for Iraqi civilians and security forces, according to the AP count, was December 2006 with 2,309 killed.

The actual number is likely higher since many killings go unreported or uncounted.

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