tampabay.com

Last week in Iraq

By Times Wires
Published November 18, 2007


Attacks

-At least 10 people were killed or found dead around Iraq on Nov. 11. The toll included a 12-year-old girl in Baghdad who was killed by a roadside bomb that aimed for a U.S. convoy but missed its target, police said.

-Fierce clashes between the Sunni insurgent group al-Qaida in Iraq and volunteer fighters supported by American troops left at least 20 people dead just outside Baghdad on Monday, American officials said Tuesday. As many as 45 insurgents attacked two checkpoints manned by volunteers, leaving 15 insurgents and five volunteers dead, the U.S. military said.

Military

-U.S. soldiers who have served in Iraq are suffering substantially greater mental distress several months after leaving the combat zone than they do when they first return to the United States, according to a study by Army researchers published Wednesday in the Journal of the American Medical Association. The study says the Army needs to intervene earlier with more mental health care for veterans and their family members.

-Defense Secretary Robert Gates said Thursday that unless Congress passes funding for the Iraq war within days, he will direct the Army and Marine Corps to begin developing plans to lay off employees and terminate contracts early next year.

-The senior British commander in southern Iraq told reporters Thursday that attacks against British security forces in Basra province had fallen to about one-tenth of the number before September, when his troops moved from bases in the city to the nearby airport.

-Senate Republicans on Friday blocked an effort by Democrats to act on a House-passed war spending bill that would have provided $50-billion for operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, but would have required that troop withdrawals from Iraq begin within 30 days.

-Hundreds of American and Iraqi troops descended Friday on a remote desert area southwest of Baghdad to root out al-Qaida in Iraq and search for two U.S. soldiers missing after a deadly insurgent ambush six months ago. Officers said there was no immediate sign of the missing soldiers.

Rebuilding

-Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki said on Nov. 11 that suicide attacks and other bombings in the Iraqi capital have dropped significantly since last year's high, calling it a sign of the end of sectarian violence. A top U.S. general in Iraq said he believes the drop is sustainable as Iraqis turn away from extremists.

-An Iraqi taxi driver was shot and killed Nov. 10 by a guard with DynCorp International, a security firm hired to protect U.S. diplomats, when a DynCorp convoy rolled past a knot of traffic in Baghdad, the Interior Ministry said on Nov. 11. Three witnesses said the taxi had posed no threat to the convoy. DynCorp said it was trying to determine what happened.

-Maliki hopes to soon declare an end to a nine-month-old security plan and curfew in Baghdad because of a recent decline in violence, Iraqi officials said Monday.

-Federal agents investigating the Sept. 16 episode in which Blackwater security personnel shot and killed 17 Iraqi civilians have found that at least 14 of the shootings were unjustified and violated deadly force rules in effect for security contractors in Iraq, according to civilian and military officials briefed on the case, the New York Times reported Wednesday.

-The State Department official responsible for ensuring the agency operates ethically recused himself Wednesday from any investigations related to the Blackwater security company after admitting to lawmakers that his brother is a member of the embattled contractor's advisory board.

-Iran appears to be honoring an informal pledge to halt the smuggling of explosives and other weapons into Iraq, contributing to a drop of bombings by nearly a half since March, a senior U.S. general told reporters Thursday.

-Maliki approved the trial of two Shiite former Health Ministry officials who are accused of killing and kidnapping hundreds of Sunnis, officials said Thursday. It is the first time that such high-ranking Shiites will be tried for sectarian crimes.

-A senior Pentagon leader said Friday it is still uncertain whether Iraqi factions can reconcile and bring political stability to the embattled nation. "The jury's still out on that," said Michael Vickers, senior civilian adviser to Gates. "Ultimately, as in any insurgency, it's really up to the locals and has to be translated to a political effect."

Deaths

As of Saturday, 3,867 U.S. troops have died in Iraq. Identifications as reported by the U.S. military and not previously published:

-Army Sgt. Derek R. Banks, 24, Newport News, Va.; explosion Oct. 25 in Baghdad, died Wednesday in San Antonio, Texas.

-Army Spc. Jermaine D. Franklin, 22, Arlington, Texas; explosion Nov. 9; Jisr Naft.

-Army Sgt. Christopher R. Kruse, 23, Emporia, Kan.; explosion Tuesday; Mukhisa.

-Army Pfc. Casey P. Mason, 22, Lake, Mich., small-arms fire Tuesday; Mosul.

-Army Spc. Peter W. Schmidt, 30, Eureka, Calif.; explosion Tuesday; Mukhisa.

-Army Spc. Ashley Sietsema, 20, Melrose Park, Ill.; vehicle accident Monday; Kuwait City.

-Army Sgt. Joseph M. Vanek, 22, Elmhurst, Ill.; small-arms fire Monday; Baghdad.