BAGHDAD, Iraq (AP) – Six American soldiers were killed in separate attacks Monday and a Marine died in action the day before, making October the deadliest month for U.S. troops in Iraq since January. A car bomb exploded in Basra during evening Ramadan festivities, killing at least 20 people.
Earlier Monday, U.S. jets struck insurgent targets near the Syrian border and at least six people were killed.
Four soldiers from the Army’s Task Force Baghdad soldiers died when their patrol struck a roadside bomb in Youssifiyah, 12 miles south of Baghdad in an area known as the “triangle of death.”
Two other soldiers from the 29th Brigade Combat Team were also killed in a bombing Monday near Balad, 50 miles north of Baghdad. The U.S. military also said a Marine was killed Sunday near Amiriyah, 25 miles west of Baghdad.
Those deaths raised the death toll for October to more than 90, the highest monthly total since January when 107 American service members died. The latest deaths brought to 2,025 the number of U.S. service members who have died since the Iraq war began in March 2003.
In Washington, Pentagon spokesman Lawrence Di Rita said there is no readily apparent explanation for why the number of U.S. casualties was higher in October than in previous months. He said the insurgents’ roadside bombs are getting more sophisticated.
“We see an adversary that continues to develop some sophistication on very deadly and increasingly precise stand-off type weapons -IEDs, in particular. They’re obviously quite capable of killing large numbers of noncombatants indiscriminately, and we’re seeing a lot of that, too,” Di Rita told reporters.
The insurgents continually search for new and more effective ways to use IEDs, he said, while U.S. forces look for new ways to counter the IED threat.
“We’re getting more intelligence that’s allowing us to stop more of these things, find more of them. So we’re learning from them (the insurgents) and the enemy is learning from us, and it’s going to be that way for as long as there is an insurgency,” Di Rita said.
The car bomb in the southern city of Basra exploded about 8:30 p.m. in a commercial district filled with shops and restaurants, killing at least 20 people and wounding about 40, police Lt. Col. Karim al-Zaidi. The restaurants had been packed in the evening with people breaking their fast during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.
Before dawn Monday, Marines backed by jets attacked insurgent positions near the Syrian border, destroying two safe houses believed use by al-Qaida figures, a U.S. statement said.
The statement made no mention of casualties, but Associated Press Television News video from the scene showed residents wailing over the bodies of about six people, including at least three children.
At the local hospital, Dr. Ahmed al-Ani claimed 40 Iraqis, including 12 children, were killed in the attack. But the claim could not be independently verified.
APTN footage from the scene showed Iraqi men digging through the rubble of several destroyed concrete buildings with a pitchfork or their hands. In the building of a nearby home, women cried over the bodies of about half a dozen blanket-covered bodies lined up on a floor. Some of the blankets were opened for the camera showing a man and three children.
“At least 20 innocent people were killed by the U.S. warplanes. Why are the Americans killing families? Where are the insurgents?” one middle-aged man told APTN. “We don’t see democracy. We just see destruction.” He didn’t give his name.
Elsewhere, two separate mortar attacks in Baghdad and northern Iraq killed three Iraqi people and wounded 11 on Monday.
In other strikes in the capital, two car bombs and five drive-by shootings killed five Iraqis and wounded 10, police said. The body of an Iraqi civilian who had been kidnapped and killed in captivity also was found dumped on a city street.
Iraq’s government has had two important victories in October: a national referendum that adopted a new constitution and the start of the mass murder trial of Saddam Hussein. that British officials say apparently originated in neighboring Iran.
The constitution also was adopted despite strong opposition from minority Sunni Arabs, many of whom think the document unfairly favors majority Shiites and Kurds.
On Friday and Saturday, U.S. and Iraqi forces conducted several raids in Baghdad, detaining 98 suspected insurgents and finding large weapons caches, the U.S. command said Monday.
One cache, found hidden in a building in a second-story crawl space beneath a bathtub, included 13 AK-47 assault rifles, three machine guns, 20 AK-47 barrels, a pistol, U.S. currency and an ammunition stockpile, the military said.