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U.S. takes aim at gunmen

As more than 70 are killed in Iraq on Tuesday, U.S. forces gear up to restore order to Baghdad's streets.

By ASSOCIATED PRESS
Published August 2, 2006

BAGHDAD - Bombings and shootings killed more than 70 people in Iraq on Tuesday in a surge of bloodshed as U.S. forces prepare to take back Baghdad's streets from gunmen. The dead included 20 Iraqi troops, a U.S. soldier and a British soldier.

The American soldier, who was assigned to the 1st Armored Division, died "due to enemy action" in Anbar province west of Baghdad, the U.S. command said. In a separate statement, the military said a U.S. soldier from the 16th Corps Support Group died the day before in a roadside bombing south of the capital.

In further violence, officials confirmed that about 45 Shiite Muslims were kidnapped over the last two weeks on the main highway to Syria and Jordan. The highway passes through Sunni insurgent strongholds west of Baghdad.

The deadliest attack Tuesday occurred when a roadside bomb devastated a bus packed with Iraqi soldiers near Baiji, 155 miles north of Baghdad. All 24 people aboard were killed, Defense Ministry spokesman Mohammed al-Askari said. All but four of the dead were Iraqi soldiers, police said.

In another significant attack, 14 people died and 37 were wounded in Baghdad when a car bomb exploded at a bank where police and soldiers were picking up monthly paychecks, police Lt. Col. Abbas Mohammed Salman said.

It was the third major attack in less than a week in Karradah, a fashionable, mostly Shiite neighborhood in central Baghdad that is home to several prominent politicians.

On Thursday, 31 people were killed in an attack that included rockets, mortars and a car bomb.

The British soldier was fatally wounded in a mortar barrage before dawn Tuesday on a British base in the southern city of Basra, the British Defense Ministry said. Britain has lost 115 soldiers in Iraq since the U.S.-led invasion in March 2003.

There was no claim of responsibility for the barrage. But it followed a crackdown by the British on Shiite militias that have infiltrated security forces in Basra.

In the southern city of Najaf, Gov. Assad Abu Kilal said 45 people from his province disappeared while traveling by bus through the Sunni-dominated area west of Baghdad. He demanded the government stop the kidnappings or he would send his own forces.

Late Tuesday, an Internet statement by the al-Qaida-affiliated Mujahedeen Shura Council claimed "the resistance" captured 37 Najaf policemen Monday near Ramadi as they returned from a training course in Jordan. It was unclear if they were from the group cited by the Najaf governor.

The U.S. military is moving at least 3,700 soldiers from Mosul to Baghdad and is gearing up for a new security operation to wrest control of the capital from Shiite militias, Sunni insurgents, kidnap gangs, rogue police and freelance gunmen.

U.S. officials have described the Baghdad campaign as a "must win" for Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, whose government has been unable to curb the rise in violence since it took office May 20. American troops will work alongside U.S.-trained Iraqi forces.

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