U.S. and Iraqi troops battled insurgents house to house yesterday, the third day of an assault against al-Qaida-led insurgents in a town near the Syrian border. The U.S. command reported the first American death in the operation. Meanwhile four U.S. soldiers were killed when a suicide car bomber attacked their checkpoint south of Baghdad.
The latest fighting came as the military said five U.S. members of an elite army unit have been charged with kicking and punching detainees in Iraq. The charges were issued Saturday against five soldiers from the 75th Ranger Regiment in connection with a Sept. 7 incident "in which three detainees were allegedly punched and kicked while awaiting movement to a detention facility," the U.S. military said in a statement.
The soldiers killed yesterday in the checkpoint attack south of Baghdad were assigned to the army's Task Force Baghdad, responsible for security in the capital and the surrounding area. The army did not specify where the attack occurred.
In Baghdad, a leading Sunni Arab politician, Adnan al-Dulaimi, called for a halt to U.S. and Iraqi military operations against cities in order to encourage disaffected Sunnis to join the political process and vote in national elections next month.
Meanwhile, the group called "Al-Qaida in Iraq" warned the Iraqi government to halt the offensive against Husaybah, a market town along the Euphrates River about 300 kilometres northwest of Baghdad, within 24 hours or see "the earth . . . shake beneath their feet." "Let them know that the price will be very heavy," the group said in a statement posted on an Islamist website. Its authenticity could not be confirmed.
The U.S. commander of the joint force, Col. Stephen Davis, said that by late Sunday his troops had moved "about halfway" through Husaybah. At least 36 insurgents have been killed since the assault began Saturday, and about 200 men have been detained, Davis said. He did not give a breakdown of nationalities of the detainees. Many were expected to be from a pro-insurgent Iraqi tribe.
A marine was killed Sunday by small arms fire in Husaybah, the military said. The New York Times, which has a journalist embedded with the U.S. forces, said three marines were also wounded.
Elsewhere, an American soldier was killed Sunday by a roadside bomb near Tikrit, the army said. The U.S. deaths toll now is at least 2,051, reports London Free Press. I.L.