BAGHDAD (AP) — Five American troops serving as advisers to Iraqi security police in eastern Baghdad were killed Monday when rockets slammed into the compound where they lived. The deaths were the largest single-day loss of life for American forces in two years.
The U.S. force announced the deaths in a brief statement, excluding details. Two Iraqi security officials later said the troops died when three rockets hit near the U.S. forces’ living quarters at a joint U.S.-Iraqi base in the Baladiyat neighborhood where U.S. forces were partnering with Ministry of Interior troops. The Iraqi officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to reporters.
American forces said the incident is under investigation. Names of the dead were withheld pending notification of family. The deaths raised to 4,459 the number of American service members who have died in Iraq, according to an Associated Press count.
With the 46,000 U.S. forces still in Iraq scheduled to depart by year’s end, American troops and their bases in Baghdad and southern Iraq have increasing come under attack and threats from Shiite Muslim militias, hoping to construct a narrative that they were responsible for driving out the Americans.
At the height of the sectarian violence that was tearing Iraq apart five years ago, there were about 170,000 American forces in the country. The number then was gradually drawn down to below 50,000 when Washington announced it had ended its combat operations ten months ago.
U.S. troops still in the country focus on training and assisting Iraqi security personnel, but are to shun combat. Nevertheless, the American forces still come under almost daily attack by rockets and mortars in their bases and gunfire and roadside bombs when moving around the country.
The five fatalities Monday were the largest on a single day since May 11, 2009, when five forces died in a noncombat incident. On April 10, 2009, six U.S. troops died — five in combat in the northern city of Mosul and one north of Baghdad in a noncombat related incident.
Elsewhere, a total of eight people were killed in the northern city of Tikrit and the capital Monday morning.
Four of them died when a bomb exploded at a checkpoint outside a government compound in Tikrit, the hometown of Saddam Hussein. It was the second attack in four days against the compound and the government employees who live and work there.
The deaths were announced by a media adviser to the provincial governor, Mohammed al-Asi. A military official in the Salahuddin Operations Command, which oversees security operations in the province, said a suicide car bomber blew himself up near the entrance to the compound. It had been a palace and support buildings constructed by Saddam, but now serves as a hub for government offices in the city.
Monday morning’s attack is the second in Tikrit in recent days. On Friday, a suicide bomber blew himself up in a mosque inside the government compound, killing 16 people. Hours later, another suicide bomber walked into the Tikrit hospital and blew himself up near the emergency room, where family members had gathered. Five people were killed and 16 were injured in that incident.
The four others killed Monday died in Baghdad, where officials said gunmen in speeding cars opened fire on two security checkpoints. The early morning attack took place in the Azamiyah district, a mostly Sunni Muslim enclave, according to military and medical officials. They spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to talk to the media.