Mideast edition, Saturday, June 30, 2007

Five U.S. troops were killed and seven others wounded in southern Baghdad when a roadside bomb exploded near their patrol, according to a statement issued by the military Friday.

The attack occurred Thursday, when gunfire and rocket-propelled grenades struck the unit, which was not identified for security reasons, Maj. Steven Lamb of the public affairs office in Baghdad told Stars and Stripes by telephone.

“None of the soldiers killed or injured during the assault have been identified pending notice to next of kin,” Lamb said.

Officials have determined that a single, deeply buried bomb was used in the attack, said Maj. Gen. Joseph F. Fil Jr., commander of Multi-National Division—Baghdad.

“These are explosive devices that are put underground, and when we say ‘deep buried,’ it’s because they’re not just surface laid or just under the surface, they’re put in deliberately, frequently with a very high explosive weight, either a number of artillery shells, or sometimes homemade explosives, sometimes mines, frequently it’s all these things put together,” Fil told reporters Friday.

The deeper the explosive devices are buried, the harder they are to detect, he said.

To combat these types of bombs, coalition troops have gone into sewers to weld manholes shut and are being careful of drainage ditches that pass under roadways, Fil said.

He declined to talk about other measures to counter the devices.

The patrol was conducting ongoing clearing operations, which are “designed to reduce sectarian violence and help set the conditions for the improvement of essential services, economic growth and aid in the transition of security operations with Iraqi Security Forces in the lead,” the statement read.

Also on Thursday, U.S. troops from the 1st Battalion, 18th Infantry Regiment “Vanguards” on patrol in the Risalah neighborhood of the Rashid District, also in southern Baghdad, killed two insurgents and recovered two machine guns after coming under fire.

Another suspected insurgent was shot dead and three more Iraqis injured when U.S. soldiers opened fire as three Iraqis tried to break through a checkpoint on a tractor — one brandishing an AK-47, according to the U.S. military. Two of the three Iraqis were injured while fleeing and a bystander — a young girl — was injured in the U.S. troop assault, but was later treated and released.

In other clearing operations, U.S. troops assigned to the “Black Lions” of Company A, 1st Battalion, 28th Infantry Regiment found on Wednesday a collection of Iranian-made rocket parts in the Aamel neighborhood, also in the Rashid District.

The find revealed “empty 107 mm cases with the same lot numbers as those seized June 17, one rocket launcher, materials to build more than 50 launchers, 13 60 mm mortar rounds, one 81 mm mortar, rocket-propelled grenades, a large quantity of homemade and plastic explosives, a bag of shotgun shells, two bags of loose 7.62 rounds, one light anti-tank weapon, three assault rifles, one optical sight and an assortment of initiators and grenades,” another statement released by the military on Friday said.

On Wednesday, members of the 4th Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division witnessed a “suspicious person” digging a hole in an area where other roadside bombs have been placed in the past. The person was identified as a teenager after U.S. soldiers opened fire, injuring the youth and two others apparently supervising him nearby. Officials reported providing treatment at a military hospital facility.

All were held for questioning. Later that same day, four more suspects were arrested in connection with the incident, according to the military statement.

Stars and Stripes reporter Jeff Schogol contributed to this report.

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