BAGHDAD: Insurgents launched an attack on a US combat post Monday, sending in a suicide bomber and clashing with American troops. Two US soldiers were killed and 17 wounded, the military said.
The assault began with a suicide bomber exploding a vehicle outside the base north of Baghdad, said the military statement. It gave no further details beyond the number of dead and wounded.
Residents said US forces fought with militants after the suicide bomber tried to break through barriers around the base near Tarmiyah, about 50 km north of Baghdad. For hours, helicopters were seen landing at the base and leaving.
The attack came on a day when a string of car bombings and other attacks claimed more than 40 civilian lives in Baghdad and elsewhere.
In Baghdad, at least 11 people were killed in a mortar attack on a Shia enclave. Earlier, five people were killed when a suicide attacker donated a bomb-rigged belt on a public bus headed for the mostly Shia area of Karradah in central Baghdad, police reported.
A roadside bomb killed three policemen in the Shia area of Zafraniyah in southeastern Baghdad, officials said. Only 100 m away, a bomb hidden in an open-air market exploded, killing at least five.
In Mahmoudiya, 30 km south of the capital, a car bomb went off among auto repair shops, killing two and wounding two, police said. Mahmoudiya is mostly Shia with Sunnis living in villages around the community and has long been a flashpoint for sectarian violence.
Elsewhere in Iraq, a car bomb in Ramadi, about 150 km west of Baghdad, killed at least nine bystanders congregated at a police checkpoint in the aftermath of a failed suicide attack.
In Duluiyah, a Sunni area about 75 km north of Baghdad, at least four were killed when a bomb-rigged car exploded.
Police said at least 62 people died Sunday in the attack in the mostly Shia area of New Baghdad. Scores were injured as extremists sent a bloody calling card to officials boasting that militant factions were on the run.
The US military announced Monday that a US Marine was killed two days earlier during combat operations in Anbar province, a Sunni insurgent hotspot west of the capital.
The latest attacks were a sobering reminder of the huge challenges confronting any effort to rattle the well-armed and well-hidden insurgents.
Just a few hours before the weekend blasts, Lt. Gen. Abboud Qanbar led reporters on a tour of the neighborhood near the marketplace and promised to chase the terrorists out of Baghdad.
On Saturday, the Iraqi spokesman for the plan, Brig. Gen. Qassim Moussawi, said violence had plummeted 80 percent in the capital.
Nearly 130 people were injured. Another person was killed in a car bombing Sunday in the Shia militia stronghold of Sadr City.
Prime Minister Nouri Al-Maliki condemned the bombing as a desperate act by terrorists and criminals who sense they are being squeezed.
These crimes confirm the defeat of these perpetrators and their failure in confronting our armed forces, which are determined to cleanse the dens of terrorism, Al-Maliki said in a statement.
US Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad said the bombings underscore the increasing desperation felt by criminals and would only serve to galvanize Iraqi forces and their coalition partners. Sunday was by far the deadliest day since the security sweeps began last week. On Thursday, a string of car bombs killed seven civilians on the first full day of the house-to-house searches for weapons and suspected militants.
The US-led teams have faced limited direct defiance as they set up checkpoints and comb neighborhoods. But that could change as they move into more volatile sections. The next could be Sadr City, a stronghold of the Mahdi Army militia loyal to radical Shia cleric Muqtada Al-Sadr.
US soldiers pressed closer to Sadr City and the reception changed noticeably. In previous days, Shia families opened their doors to welcome the troops – feeling that the American presence would be a buffer against feared attacks from Sunni militia.
On Sunday, in areas closer to Sadr City, parents slapped away the candy and lollipops given by American soldiers.
The Baghdad security plan is very important to push Iraq ahead, said Haider Al-Obeidi, a parliament member from the Dawa party of the prime minister Al-Maliki.