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Insurgents resilient in fifth week of security crackdown
Sunni insurgents - showing surprising tenacity in the fifth week of the US-Iraqi security crackdown - killed at least six more US troops over the weekend and a Sunni insurgent car bomber hit a largely Shiite district in the capital yesterday, killing at least eight people.
The American military said four US soldiers died and one was wounded when the unit was struck by a roadside bomb in western Baghdad. During the ongoing security sweep in the capital and surrounding regions, the battalion had found eight weapons caches and two roadside bombs and helped rescue a kidnap victim, the military said.
A fifth soldier was killed in an explosion in increasingly volatile Diyala province just northeast of the capital. A Marine died in fighting the same day in Anbar province, the vast, largely desert region that sprawls west of Baghdad to the Saudi Arabian, Jordanian and Syrian borders.
All of the US victims were killed on Saturday, the military said in a series of statements that also reported that an seventh soldier died from non-combat injuries but gave no other details.
While US and Iraqi troops have flooded the Baghdad streets and a heavily armored American column was sent north to adjacent Diyala province, attacks on American and Iraqi forces have been surprisingly robust.
Defense Secretary Robert Gates said the success of the mission, which was starting well, could not be measured for months and that it was designed to give the Iraqis more time to settle political and sectarian differences.
"The issue that we're all trying to figure out is how best do you get the Iraqis to reconcile their differences - because after all, this is not going to be solved by the military. It has to involve political reconciliation in Iraq, among Iraqis," Gates said on CBS's "Face the Nation."
"We're basically buying them time," he said.
The latest deaths raised the American military death toll in Iraq to 3,217 since the war began in March 2003, according to an Associated Press count.
In Shiite-controlled eastern Baghdad a US Bradley fighting vehicle was hit by a roadside bomb Saturday evening, set afire and destroyed, said spokesman Maj. Steven F. Lamb said. There were no casualties.