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Blasts kill 9 U.S. soldiers in Iraq

6:57 AM, Mar 6, 2007   |    comments
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"Six Task Force Lightning soldiers died as a result of injuries sustained following an explosion near their vehicles," a statement said. The attack took place during combat operations in Salah ad Din province.

Three other soldiers were wounded and taken to military treatment facilities.

In Diyala province, three more Task Force Lightning soldiers died when a bomb exploded near them, the military said. One other soldier was wounded.

The deaths brought to 3,176 the number of U.S. troops killed in the Iraq war. Seven American civilian contractors of the military also have died in the conflict.

Violence in Iraq on Tuesday left at least 14 people dead.

Two Shiite pilgrims were killed and six others were wounded when gunmen opened fire on a pair of minibuses in Latifiya, about 25 miles (40 km) south of Baghdad.

The pilgrims were on their way to Karbala for Arbayeen, the end of the commemoration of the killing of Imam Hussein.

Arbayeen, which falls on March 10, marks the end of the traditional 40-day mourning period following the anniversary of Imam Hussein's death, known as Ashura.

Shortly afterward, one Shiite pilgrim was killed and three others were injured when gunmen opened fire on a group of Shiite pilgrims walking in Latifiya.

Later, five Iraqi police officers were killed when a roadside bomb exploded near their patrol in eastern Baghdad's Aubaydi district.

Also, two people died and four others were wounded when a roadside bomb exploded near a fuel tanker on the Sarrafiya Bridge in northern Baghdad.

In addition, four Shiite pilgrims were killed and 14 others were injured when a car bomb exploded in Baghdad's Yarmouk district.

Suicide car bomber kills 28
On Monday, a suicide car bomber detonated explosives in a busy commercial district of Baghdad, killing 28 people and wounding 56 others, Baghdad police said.

The attack took place in a book market along Mutanabi Street at 11:45 a.m. (3:45 a.m. ET)

Mutanabi Street, named after a legendary 10th-century poet, once attracted Baghdad's intellectuals, who gathered at the bookshops for a lively exchange of ideas.

"Papers from the book market were floating through the air like leaflets dropped from a plane," a Health Ministry worker who was near the explosion told The Associated Press.

"Pieces of flesh and the remains of books were scattered everywhere," he told AP.

U.S., Iraqi forces meet little resistance in crackdown
More than a thousand U.S. and Iraqi forces continued a massive clearing operation of the Sadr City area in eastern Baghdad on Monday. There have been no reports of any major resistance in the densely populated Shiite district, once a hotbed of sectarian violence.

The clearing operation, which is in its second day, is part of the new Baghdad security plan.

CNN's Jennifer Eccleston spent eight hours on patrol with Iraqi and U.S. forces on Monday in Sadr City, which is also the headquarters of the Mehdi Army, a militia loyal to radical Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr.

"People were out shopping, children were playing soccer, playing football ... groups of young girls were walking around," she said. "I have been to Sadr City half a dozen times in three years, and I have never seen it so calm and seemingly normal."

Eccleston said residents told her they feel safer than they have in a long time and praised the Iraqi forces.

When asked about the American forces, residents said, "Well, they are helping out the Iraqis, and when that's done, they will go home," Eccleston reported.

On Sunday, the U.S. command in Baghdad said the joint operation in Sadr City is the largest security sweep of the neighborhood since the Iraq-led security plan, dubbed "Enforcing the Law," or "Fardh al Qanoon" in Arabic, was officially launched February 14.

No weapons caches were found or suspects detained during the operation, said Lt. Col. Scott R. Bleichwehl, a U.S. military spokesman. There were no incidents of violence and no casualties to coalition forces, Iraqi security forces or civilians during the sweep, he said.

Lt. Gen. Raymond Odierno, commander of the multinational corps in Iraq, speaking from Baghdad on Sunday, said he expects it will be "a minimum of six to nine months" before Iraqi forces will be able to maintain order in Baghdad.

Other developments

-At least 26 people were arrested in operations in the Salaheddin province, including a local leader of a conservative Sunni organization and five of his aides, according to Iraqi officials. Also in the province, gunmen killed five Iraqi police who were driving to their jobs in Samarra, according to an official with the Tikrit police.

-Chinese oil officials are scheduled to arrive in Baghdad on Tuesday to renegotiate an old contract to develop an oil field along a major pipeline in Kut, an oil ministry spokesman told CNN on Monday. The announcement came a week after Iraq's government agreed on a plan to open the country's oil industry to international investment.

-Iraqi security forces working with coalition advisers arrested a suspected rogue member of the Mehdi Army, a militia loyal to anti-American Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, on Monday, a U.S. military statement said. The military did not identify the suspect.

-Late Sunday, Iraqi security forces arrested the local leader of an al Qaeda-linked Sunni insurgent group in Dhuluiya, north of Baghdad, an Interior Ministry spokesman said. The group, the Islamic State of Iraq, claimed responsibility for the recent kidnappings and killings of 15 Iraqi police officers in retaliation for an alleged rape that has aggravated the already deteriorating ties between Sunnis and Shiites.

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