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4 Fort Lewis infantrymen die during search in Baqouba

FORT LEWIS - Four Fort Lewis infantrymen were killed Monday when a bomb exploded in a house they were searching in Baqouba, Iraq, the military said Thursday.

The Department of Defense identified the soldiers as:

n Staff Sgt. Jacob M. Thompson, 26, of North Mankato, Minn.

n Sgt. Nicholas A. Gummersall, 23, of Chubbuck, Idaho.

n Cpl. Juan M. Alcantara, 22, of New York, N.Y.

n Spc. Kareem R. Khan, 20, of Manahawkin, N.J.

All four were assigned to the 1st Battalion, 23rd Infantry Regiment, part of the 3rd Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division. The brigade is

14 months into its second Iraq deployment, and due to return to Fort Lewis next month.

Thompson was a veteran of the brigade's first Iraq tour in 2003-04 and was previously awarded the Purple Heart for wounds suffered in combat. Khan was likewise a Purple Heart recipient, according to soldiers' records released by Fort Lewis.

Gummersall spent two years in the 2nd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment before moving to the 1-23 Infantry in June 2006.

The men were the first from 3rd Brigade to be killed in Operation Arrowhead Ripper.

The seven-week-old offensive designed to clear al-Qaida in Iraq insurgents from their stronghold in Diyala Province, north of Baghdad.

Stryker troops had called in artillery and air strikes to detonate dozens of bombs they'd found buried in Baqouba streets or explosives rigged in abandoned houses. Until Monday's blasts, they'd managed to clear them without any soldiers being killed.

Monday's deaths follow two other deadly attacks on 3rd Brigade troops last week in which six soldiers were k illed by bombs on the streets of Baghdad.

The brigade has had 47 of its soldiers killed in its second Iraq deployment.

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