Three US soldiers killed ahead of pullout from Iraq

BAGHDAD: Three American soldiers were killed Thursday in a bombing in Baghdad, the US military said, part of a burst of violence only weeks before American combat troops are due to leave Iraqi cities.

The attack was one of a series of bombings to hit Baghdad and the northern city of Kirkuk, killing at least 66 people and wounding dozens more in two days. The deadliest blast Thursday occurred in Baghdad’s southern Dora district, where a bomb exploded near an American foot patrol, US and Iraqi officials said. The US military initially reported nine US personnel were wounded in the attack.

Later, the military said it could not confirm that number because the injured were still being evaluated and treated. The attack occurred about 10:38 am as the soldiers patrolled near an outdoor market, said Army Major David Shoupe. Iraqi police said a suicide bomber was responsible, but Shoupe said the US could not confirm that.

He said four civilians died in the blast, but Iraqi police and hospital officials put the civilian toll at 12 killed and 25 wounded. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorised to release the information.

Earlier today, another suicide bomber killed seven U.S.-backed Sunni paramilitaries as they waited in a line to receive salaries at an Iraqi military base in the northern city of Kirkuk. Police Major Salam Zankana said the victims in the Kirkuk attack were members of the local paramilitary Awakening Council — Sunnis who turned against the insurgents and help provide security.

Eight others were wounded, he said. Awakening Council members, also known as Sons of Iraq, have been frequently targeted by al-Qaida and other Sunni groups.