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104 U.S. service members killed in April

That's the sixth-highest monthly toll since the war began. An 11-week security effort has made them more vulnerable.

By ASSOCIATED PRESS
Published May 1, 2007


BAGHDAD - Five U.S. troops died in weekend attacks, pushing the death toll past 100 in the deadliest month for American forces since December, the military said Monday as a wave of violence battered Iraqi civilians, including a suicide bombing at a Shiite funeral in Khalis.

The attack against the mourners north of Baghdad - claiming more than 30 lives - was the deadliest in a series of bombings and shootings that killed at least 102 people nationwide.

The rising toll for U.S. soldiers also pointed to a potentially deadly trend: more troops exposed to more dangers as they try to reclaim control of Baghdad.

All but one of the latest U.S. deaths occurred in Iraq's capital, where a nearly 11-week security crackdown has put thousands of additional American soldiers on the streets, making them targets for both Shiite and Sunni extremists.

After sunset, thunderous explosions rocked central Baghdad, apparently from rockets fired toward the U.S.-controlled Green Zone. Warning sirens sounded in the heavily protected district, and witnesses saw smoke rising from the area. The U.S. military said it had no immediate information about damage or casualties.

The rockets appeared to come from a part of eastern Baghdad where Shiite militias operate. But the barrage suggested that Shiite gangs could be regrouping after falling back when the Baghdad security sweeps got under way.

In a statement Monday, the U.S. command said three American soldiers and an Iraqi interpreter were killed by a roadside bomb Sunday in eastern Baghdad. Another U.S. soldier was killed Saturday by small-arms fire in the same area, the statement said.

A Marine died in combat Sunday in Anbar province, a Sunni insurgent stronghold west of the capital, the military said.

The deaths brought the number of American service members killed in Iraq during April to 104 - eight fewer than December's toll of 112 and the sixth-highest figure for a single month since the war started in March 2003.

Last week, the top U.S. commander in Iraq, Gen. David Petraeus, warned in Washington that "there is the very real possibility" of intense combat in the coming months and "therefore, there could be more casualties."

President Bush has committed some 30, 000 extra American troops to the security operation in Baghdad, but he is facing legislation by the Democratic-led Congress calling for U.S. troops to begin withdrawing from Iraq by Oct. 1. Bush has promised to veto the measure.

While American casualties are rising, U.S. officials say the Baghdad crackdown has reduced civilian deaths in the capital since the security operation was launched Feb. 14. Of those killed or found dead Monday, 27 were the apparent victims of sectarian death squads in Baghdad.

Figures compiled by the Associated Press from police reports show a rise in civilian casualties outside the capital, where extremists took refuge to avoid the Baghdad operation.