Violence Grips Iraq as Government Stumbles

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In Iraq, Prime Minister-designate Nouri al-Maliki is struggling with sectarian divisions as he attempts to fill out his Cabinet before the constitutional deadline of May 22.

The backdrop for Iraq's political troubles continues to be deadly violence, with multiple attacks leaving dozens dead on Sunday.

Monday also brings the resumption of Saddam Hussein's trial.

Militants Down U.S. Helicopter in Iraq, Killing Two

BAGHDAD, Iraq (AP) — Insurgents shot down a U.S. helicopter south of Baghdad and killed two soldiers, bringing the weekend death toll of American service members to seven, the U.S. military said Monday.

The helicopter attack occurred Sunday during fighting in Youssifiyah, 12 miles south of the Iraqi capital, the military said.

It was the second helicopter shot down in the past six weeks over that area, commonly known as the "Triangle of Death" because of the large number of insurgent attacks. An Apache helicopter went down there April 1.

Two U.S. Marines died Sunday during unspecified "enemy action" in Anbar Province, the area of western Iraq that is the heart of the Sunni-Arab led insurgency, the U.S. command said. Two U.S. Army soldiers also died Sunday in a roadside bomb attack in Baghdad, and another U.S. soldier was killed by a roadside bomb in Baghdad on Saturday.

The fatalities raised to 2,443 the number of U.S. military personnel who have died since the war began in 2003, according to a count by The Associated Press.

The U.S. command also said American soldiers and helicopters conducted four raids over the weekend in the Triangle of Death, killing 16 suspected al-Qaida insurgents, including one militant who allegedly had led the April 1 attack, during which two U.S. soldiers were killed when their AH-64 Apache helicopter was shot down in the Youssifiyah area.

After that attack, a new al-Qaida group claimed responsibility and posted a gruesome video on the Web showing men dragging the burning body of what appeared to be an American soldier across a field as they shouted "Allahu akbar!" or "God is great!"

It was not known if the weekend raids were related to Sunday's helicopter crash as well.

Four Iraqi civilians and two suspected militants were wounded during the raids Saturday and Sunday around Latifiyah, 20 miles south of Baghdad, the military said. The wounded civilians included two women, one of whom was pregnant, and two children, the U.S. command said. All were treated or were evacuated to a U.S. military hospital.

During the raids, coalition forces killed al-Qaida member Abu Mustafa and 15 other suspected al-Qaida associates, the U.S. command said. The raids also detained eight suspected insurgents. Abu Mustafa was wanted for "his leadership role" in the shooting down of an Apache helicopter, the U.S. command said.

In other attacks Monday, militants fired more than 30 mortar rounds at a British military camp in southern Iraq, wounding four soldiers.

Elsewhere, eight Iraqis were killed, including one in a roadside bomb attack that hit an oil tanker, sending a large plume of black smoke billowing over central Baghdad.

The mortar barrage occurred at about 4:30 a.m. Monday at Britain's Camp Abu Naji in Amarah, 180 miles southeast of Baghdad, said British spokeswoman Capt. Kelly Goodall. One of the British soldiers received a serious leg injury, but the other wounds were minor, said Holly Wheeler, a Ministry of Defense spokeswoman in London.

The attack raised the total of British casualties in the past nine days to six killed and five wounded. The attacks all occurred in southern Iraq, an area that has traditionally been far more peaceful that central and northern Iraq where U.S. forces are based.

On Saturday, two British soldiers were killed and one was wounded by a roadside bomb as they patrolled in their armored vehicle north of Basra city.

On May 6, four British soldiers died when their helicopter crashed in Basra, apparently downed by a missile. The attack triggered a confrontation in which jubilant Iraqi residents pelted British rescuers with stones, hurled firebombs and shouted slogans in support of a radical Shiite cleric. Five Iraqi civilians, including a child, died and about 30 were wounded in the melee as Shiite gunmen and British soldiers exchange. military personnel have died since the Iraq war began in 2003, according to a count by The Associated Press.

On Monday, a drive-by shooting killed four teachers who were heading to their school in a village near Balad Ruz, a town 50 miles northeast of Baghdad, police said. The attackers and the victims were both riding in minibuses, the private vehicles that charge small fees to transport the general public.

In central Baghdad, a roadside bomb targeting a police patrol missed the officers but killed one civilian, wounded four and set fire to an oil tanker parked nearby. "The explosion caused a huge fire," said police Capt. Ziyad Naji. One man died in a drive-by shooting in Baghdad.

Roadside bombs exploded in two cities located north and south of Baghdad, killing one Iraqi civilian and a police officer, and wounding five Iraqis, police said.

Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.



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