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Stryker soldier dies in attack

A Fort Lewis soldier was among three killed northeast of Baghdad in a battle against insurgents, according to reports.

Two soldiers died as a result of injuries suffered in explosions near their vehicles Wednesday, and the third died from injuries from small-arms fire, according to a Thursday news release from U.S. Central Command. Nine soldiers were wounded and taken to a coalition hospital for treatment, the release says.

A story out of Baqouba, Iraq, by The Associated Press chronicled the battle involving 5th Battalion, 20th Infantry Regiment of the 3rd Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division (Stryker Brigade Combat Team) based in Fort Lewis. It reported that one fatality occurred when an armored Stryker vehicle was struck by an improvised explosive device, and insurgents emerged from hiding to fire rocket-propelled grenades in unison at the wreckage. The nine other crew members in the vehicle were wounded; six later returned to duty, according to The Associated Press.

Another Stryker was destroyed during combat.

Whether the other two soldiers killed were assigned to Fort Lewis is not known.

The news release said the names of those killed are being withheld until immediate family members are notified.

Stryker troops in Iraq had been riding a wave of good fortune until Wednesday’s fighting in Baqouba.

The soldier who died was the first from Fort Lewis to be killed in Iraq in seven weeks. That’s despite the fact that the 3rd Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division since December has been working in Baghdad as the U.S. military’s main strike force against insurgent and militia fighters.

Fort Lewis officials said Thursday that they could offer no information until the Department of Defense identified the soldier.

The soldier and two others who were killed were part of a 700-troop Stryker task force, led by the 5th Battalion, 20th Infantry Regiment, sent this week to quell insurgency fighters thought to have fled the security crackdown in the capital.

The last Stryker soldier to be killed in Iraq was Staff Sgt. Hector Leija, 27, of Houston, who died Jan. 24 during operations along Haifa Street in Baghdad.

The fast, armored Strykers allow troops to move about the country with greater protection than many other units.

Fort Lewis Stryker troops have enjoyed other long stretches without losing a soldier. The 3rd Brigade went 62 days without a loss in 2004, during its first deployment, and another Fort Lewis Stryker outfit, the 1st Brigade, 25th Infantry Division, went 68 days in 2005.

The 3rd Brigade is 10 months into its planned 12-month deployment, although soldiers and their families have said they expect they’ll be ordered to stay longer as part of the surge of U.S. forces.

Another Fort Lewis Stryker unit, the 4th Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division, is scheduled to leave for Iraq early next month.

Christian Hill of The Olympian, Michael Gilbert of The News Tribune and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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