October's toll of troops hits 70

BAGHDAD, Iraq - The U.S. military announced Wednesday that 11 U.S. troops had been killed in Iraq since Tuesday, mostly in Baghdad, the apparent result of the United States' latest attempt to quell intensifying violence in the capital.

So far, 70 U.S. troops have been killed in Iraq this month. If the death toll continues at this rate, the monthly tally will be the highest since November 2004, when the U.S. military staged an offensive on the Iraqi city of Fallujah and the number of Americans killed during the month was 137.

U.S. troops increasingly have been patrolling the streets and conducting house-to-house sweeps in the capital in an attempt to stop the sectarian violence, which in some places has divided neighborhoods street by street. The troops have helped clean up streets littered with garbage and in some places the remnants of car bombings, and they've encouraged shop owners to reopen their businesses.

But the security plan, in place since summer, hasn't produced evidence of significant improvements. Securing Baghdad is the linchpin of sustaining the Iraqi government and allowing U.S. forces to leave, many experts say.

The plan also has exposed some of the weaknesses of handing over operations to Iraqi security forces.

So far they haven't appeared prepared to tackle the burgeoning sectarian violence.

On Wednesday, at least another 29 Iraqis' bodies were found throughout the capital, including three in the southern Baghdad neighborhood of Dora and two in Shaab, in eastern Baghdad, two of the areas that U.S forces targeted in the security sweeps.

Police think residents often are killed in one neighborhood and their bodies dumped in another. Although statistics in Iraq are no longer reliable, police reports collected from the top provinces show that nearly 800 Iraqis have been killed so far this month.

In a recent military operation in Baghdad, Iraqi forces, who were supposed to take the lead, leaned heavily on U.S. troops for guidance. Many Sunni Muslim residents said they allowed the mostly Shiite Muslim Iraqi security forces to search their homes only because American troops accompanied them.

The early stages of the operation yielded few arrests or weapons, prompting many to think that the insurgency had left the targeted communities. Wednesday's announcement suggested that they were moving back in.

The latest attacks on American troops began just before 7 a.m. Tuesday when four soldiers died west of Baghdad in a roadside bomb attack. Two hours later, a soldier was killed when his convoy was attacked in northern Baghdad. Another soldier died Tuesday afternoon north of the capital in a roadside bomb attack.

Three soldiers from the 3rd Heavy Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, were killed Tuesday during combat in the northeastern province of Diyala, which is nearly evenly split between Sunnis and Shiites and where violence is high.

In the Sunni province of Anbar, a Marine from Regimental Combat Team 7 was killed during fighting.

A soldier died Wednesday afternoon in southern Baghdad during small-arms fighting.

"We work to mitigate risks to our forces every day while aggressively conducting operations in support of the government of Iraq to bring security to the people of Iraq," U.S. military spokesman Lt. Col. Christopher Garver said Wednesday in a statement.

Courts-martial ordered for eight soldiers

EVANSVILLE, Ind. - Eight soldiers from the 101st Airborne Division were ordered Wednesday to be court-martialed on murder charges stemming from their service in Iraq, and two could get the death penalty.

The Fort Campbell soldiers facing the death penalty are Sgt. Paul E. Cortez and Pfc. Jesse V. Spielman. Both are accused of raping 14-year-old Abeer Qassim al-Janabi in her family's home in Mahmoudiya, about 20 miles south of Baghdad, then killing the girl, her parents and younger sister. Spc. James P. Barker and Pfc. Bryan L. Howard are also accused in the rape and murders but will not face the death penalty, the military.

Four soldiers from the Division's 3rd Brigade also will be tried in a separate court-martial on charges of murdering Iraqi detainees in northern Iraq's Salahuddin province during a raid on a village. Pfc. Corey R. Clagett, Spc. William B. Hunsaker, Staff Sgt. Raymond L. Girouard and Spc. Juston R. Graber are accused of murdering three Iraqi men taken from a house May 9.

The Associated Press

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