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4,000 dead American invaders in Iraq


U.S. death toll in Iraq climbs to 4,000; Bush reflects each day on losses

Associated Press
Mar. 24, 2008 07:07 AM

WASHINGTON -As the U.S. death toll in Iraq climbed to 4,000, the White House on Monday said that President Bush spends time every day thinking about those who have lost their lives in battle.

"He bears the responsibility for the decisions that he made," White House press secretary Dana Perino said. "He also bears the responsibility to continue to focus on succeeding."

Perino said families of the fallen soldiers often tell the president that they want him to complete the mission in Iraq.

With the war entering its sixth year, Bush makes the argument that defeating extremists in Iraq makes it less likely that Americans will encounter enemies at home. Iraq has taken a heavy toll on his presidency, contributing to Bush's low poll ratings.

Bush on Monday is conferring by secure videoconference with Gen. David Petraeus, the top commander in Iraq, and Ryan Crocker, the ambassador to Iraq, to get their recommendations. Petraeus and Crocker are due to testify on Capitol Hill on April 8-9. Perino said Bush is not expected to announce decisions about how to proceed with any new troop withdrawals until after that testimony.

She said that Bush is under "no deadline" to make a decision about troop levels before leaving next week for the NATO summit in Romania.

Bush also is to receive briefings Monday at the State Department and on Wednesday at the Pentagon "on what actions his advisers recommend for cementing those gains and taking action that will lay the foundation for further additional troop drawdowns," Perino added.

Commenting on the 4,000 deaths, Perino said, "President Bush believes that every life is precious, and he spends time every day thinking about those who've lost their lives on the battlefield. He grieves for the families who have lost loved ones, and he is constantly concerned about their well-being."

"The president has said the hardest thing a commander in chief will do is send young men and women into combat, and he's grieved for every lost American life, from the very first several years ago to those lost today," the press secretary said.

Perino said that the security gains of the past year have been important to stabilizing Iraq.

"The president is extremely proud of the courageous and honorable service displayed by our military and the civilians who are helping the Iraqis rebuild their country to establish democracy in Iraq that will improve the lives of the Iraqis, ensure an ally in the war on terror in the heart of the Middle East, and will help protect our own national security," Perino said.

The U.S. has about 158,000 troops in Iraq. That number is expected to drop to 140,000 by summer in drawdowns meant to erase all but about 8,000 troops from last year's increase.


Violence around Iraq kills 57; rebels hit Green Zone

Robert H. Reid
Associated Press
Mar. 24, 2008 12:00 AM

BAGHDAD - Rockets and mortars pounded Baghdad's U.S.-protected Green Zone on Sunday, and a suicide car bomber struck an Iraqi army post in the northern city of Mosul in a surge of attacks that killed at least 57 people nationwide.

The latest violence underscored the fragile security situation and the resilience of both Sunni and Shiite extremist groups as the war enters its sixth year and with the U.S. death toll now past 4,000.

Attacks in Baghdad probably stemmed from rising tensions between rival Shiite groups - some of whom may have been behind the Green Zone blasts. It was the most sustained assault in months against the nerve center of the U.S. mission.

The deadliest attack of the day was in Mosul when a suicide driver slammed his vehicle through a security checkpoint in a hail of gunfire and detonated his explosives in front of an Iraqi headquarters building, killing 13 Iraqi soldiers and injuring 42 other people, police said.

Iraqi guards opened fire on the vehicle but couldn't stop it because the windshield had been bulletproofed, said an Iraqi army officer. He spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not supposed to release the information.

Mosul, Iraq's third-largest city, about 225 miles northwest of Baghdad, has been described as the last major urban area where the Sunni extremist al-Qaida group maintains a significant presence.

In Baghdad, rockets and mortars began slamming into the Green Zone about sunrise, and scattered attacks persisted throughout the day, sending plumes of smoke rising over the heavily guarded district in the heart of the capital.

A U.S. public address system in the Green Zone warned people to "duck and cover" and to stay away from windows.

At least five people were injured in the Green Zone, a U.S. Embassy statement said without specifying nationalities. The zone includes the U.S. and British embassies as well as major Iraqi government offices.

A U.S. official, speaking on condition of anonymity because the official was not authorized to release the information, said those injured included an American and four third-country nationals, meaning they were not American, British or Iraqi.

Iraqi police said 10 civilians were killed and more than 20 were injured in rocket or mortar blasts in scattered areas of east Baghdad, some of them likely due to misfired rounds.

Also in the capital, seven people were killed and 14 wounded in a suicide car bombing Sunday in the Shiite area of Shula, police reported. Such attacks are the hallmark of Sunni religious extremists.

Gunmen opened fire on passengers waiting for buses in a predominantly Shiite area in southeast Baghdad, killing at least seven men and wounding 16 people, including women and children, according to police.

Police also found the bullet-riddled bodies of 12 people - six in Baghdad, four in Mosul and two in Kut, scene of clashes between government troops and Shiite militiamen.

Elsewhere, several mortars or rockets struck a U.S. base in the Shiite city of Hillah, about 60 miles south of Baghdad, Iraqi police said. The American military did not immediately respond to a request for comment about the attack.

No group claimed responsibility for the Green Zone attacks, but suspicion fell on Shiite extremists, based on the areas from which the weapons were fired.


Mar 24, 12:33 PM EDT

Overall US death toll in Iraq hits 4,000


Associated Press Writer

BAGHDAD (AP) -- U.S. officials said Monday they will press forward in the fight against extremists in Iraq a day after the overall U.S. death toll in the five-year conflict rose to 4,000.

The White House called the grim milestone "a sober moment" and said President Bush spends time every day thinking about those who have lost their lives in battle.

"He bears the responsibility for the decisions that he made," White House press secretary Dana Perino said. "He also bears the responsibility to continue to focus on succeeding."

The American deaths came Sunday, the same day rockets pounded the U.S.-protected Green Zone in Baghdad and a wave of attacks left at least 61 Iraqis dead nationwide.

No group claimed responsibility for the Green Zone attacks, but suspicion fell on Shiite extremists based on the location of the launching sites.

The deaths of four U.S. soldiers in a roadside bombing about 10 p.m. Sunday in southern Baghdad pushed to 4,000 the number of American service members killed as the war enters its sixth year. Another soldier was wounded in the attack, the military said.

The Associated Press count of 4,000 deaths is based on U.S. military reports and includes eight civilians who worked for the Department of Defense.

"You regret every casualty, every loss," Vice President Dick Cheney said. "The president is the one that has to make that decision to send young men and women into harm's way. It never gets any easier."

An American military official in Baghdad said each U.S. death is "equally tragic" and underscored the need to keep up the fight.

"There have been some significant gains. However, this enemy is resilient and will not give up, nor will we," military spokesman Navy Lt. Patrick Evans said. "There's still a lot of work to be done."

Last year, U.S. military deaths spiked as U.S. troops sought to regain control of Baghdad and surrounding areas. The death toll has seesawed since, with 2007 ending as the deadliest year for American troops at 901 deaths. That was 51 more deaths than 2004, the second deadliest year for U.S. soldiers.

Tens of thousands of Iraqi civilians also have been killed since the U.S.-led invasion on March 20, 2003, although estimates of a specific figure vary widely because of the difficulty in collecting accurate information.

One widely respected tally by Iraq Body Count, which collects figures based mostly on media reports, estimates that 82,349 to 89,867 Iraqi civilians have lost their lives in the conflict.

Overall attacks also have decreased against Iraqi civilians but recent weeks have seen several high-profile bombings, highlighting the fragile security situation and the resilience of both Sunni and Shiite extremist groups.

The U.S. Embassy said two government employees - an American and a Jordanian - were seriously injured and six other people required medical attention after Sunday's volley of rocket attacks.

Local hospital and police officials said at least 12 Iraqis were killed and 30 more were wounded in rocket or mortar blasts that apparently fell short after being aimed at the Green Zone from scattered areas of eastern Baghdad.

The heavily fortified area has frequently come under fire by Shiite and Sunni extremists, but the attacks have tapered off as violence declined over the past year.

The attacks followed a series of clashes last week between U.S. and Iraqi forces and factions of the Mahdi Army, the biggest Shiite militia loyal to radical cleric Muqtada al-Sadr.

Al-Sadr has declared a cease-fire through mid-August to purge the militia of criminal and dissident elements, but the militia has come under severe strains in recent weeks.

Al-Sadr's followers have accused the Shiite-dominated government of exploiting the cease-fire to target the cleric's supporters in advance of provincial elections expected this fall and demanded the release of supporters rounded up in recent weeks.

Also Monday, Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki relieved the top two security officials in Basra, Iraq's second largest city, officials said. The move is a sign of growing concern about security in the nation's oil capital since British forces handed over control of the city last year.

Two Iraqi officials said the police chief of Basra, Maj. Gen. Abdul-Jalil Khalaf, and the commander of the city's joint military-police operation, Lt. Gen. Mohan al-Fireji, have been replaced.

But the two officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not supposed to release the information.

Associated Press writer Bushra Juhi contributed to this report, as did the AP News Research Center in New York


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