U.S. Deaths in Iraq Pass 50 for October

A burning British vehicle in Basra. Credit: Essam al-Sudani/AFP/Getty. i i

hide captionIraqi youth celebrate next to a burning British vehicle in the southern city of Basra on Monday.

Essam al-Sudani/AFP/Getty
A burning British vehicle in Basra. Credit: Essam al-Sudani/AFP/Getty.

Iraqi youth celebrate next to a burning British vehicle in the southern city of Basra on Monday.

Essam al-Sudani/AFP/Getty

More than 80 Iraqis died in sectarian killings and insurgent bombings over the weekend. Also, five American troops were killed, putting the total for the month at more than 50.

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STEVE INSKEEP, host:

It's MORNING EDITION from NPR News. Good morning, I'm Steve Inskeep.

LINDA WERTHEIMER, host:

And I'm Linda Wertheimer.

Next, news from three of the world's most dangerous places. First: Baghdad. October may be one of the deadliest months for American troops in Iraq, since the invasion. Six servicemen died over the weekend bringing the total number of fatalities this month to well over 50.

Sectarian violence also continues unabated. Two Iraqi towns north of Baghdad have been terrorized by reprisal killings. NPR's Anne Garrels reports.

ANNE GARRELS: Two hundred miles north of Baghdad, more than 80 bodies are stacked in the morgue of the Balad Hospital - most shot in the head. After 14 Shiite workers were found slaughtered in an orchard nearby, Shiite militias converged on the area, attacking Sunnis in response.

The police say black-clad gunmen from militias linked to both Muqtada al-Sadr and the largest Shiite religious party in Iraq's government roamed the streets, setting up checkpoints where they checked Ids, looking for Sunnis. Further north, the oil-rich city of Kirkuk - contested by Kurds and Arabs - was hit by a series of car bombs that killed 12 and wounded dozens more.

A referendum, set for next year, is to determine whether control of the city is given to the Kurdish region or stays with the Arab center. In the meantime, all the parties are trying to establish their power on the ground.

The rising American death toll coincides with stepped-up operations in Baghdad. Thousands of American troops have been shifted to the capital to sweep its most dangerous neighborhoods. The senior military spokesman, General William Caldwell, attributes the spike in deaths to the military's new, more aggressive, strategy. Injury rates are also up with over 400 American servicemen wounded in the past two weeks.

Over the weekend, on the first anniversary of Iraq's new constitution, Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki pledged again to disband militias. But his government has indefinitely postponed this Saturday's national reconciliation conference. And the prime minister's much touted security plan has yet to take shape.

Anne Garrels, NPR News, Baghdad.

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