Two U.S. soldiers and a civilian were killed and at least two soldiers were wounded Monday in two separate incidents near Balad, north of Baghdad, according to the Coalition Press Information Center.
The action comes amid what U.S. military sources describe as a massive offensive against insurgents around Saddam Hussein’s ancestral homeland of Tikrit.
The soldiers were members of the 4th Infantry Division. It was not immediately clear whether the civilian was American or Iraqi.
One soldier and the civilian were killed when an improvised device exploded while they were transporting detainees to a forward operating base just before 8 a.m. Monday (1 a.m. EST). The number of wounded in that incident was not known.
The second soldier was killed and two were wounded when their patrol came under attack from small arms and rocket propelled grenades just after 7:30 a.m. (12:30 a.m. EST), the coalition’s information center said.
Overall, the Iraq war has claimed the lives of 422 U.S. troops, 283 after May 1. Of those after May 1, 180 occurred in hostile situations.
There is no reliable estimate of Iraqi deaths over the course of the conflict. The Associated Press reported an estimated 3,240 civilian Iraqi deaths between March 20 and April 20, but the AP said the figure was based on records of only half of Iraq’s hospitals and that the actual number was thought to be significantly higher.
Monday’s violence coincides with an operation that began Sunday night as part of the 4th Infantry Division’s “Operation Ivy Cyclone.”
“The 4th Infantry Division and Task Force Iron Horse has launched a series of combined arms operations to include air and ground strikes against identified targets,” a statement from U.S. Central Command said, “along with precision raids against noncompliant groups and individuals focused on neutralizing paramilitary, former regime loyalists, foreign fighters and other extremist and subversive elements.”
Strikes in Ad Dwar, a town north of Tikrit, destroyed several buildings, including houses of those believed to be involved in the November 7 downing of a U.S. helicopter. Also targeted was an abandoned summer palace belonging to Izzat Ibrahim al-Duri, a former regime official who is No. 6 on the U.S. Defense Department’s list of 55 most-wanted Iraqis.
A military source said the offensive is designed “to let the Iraqis know that the attacks on the coalition will not be tolerated.”
Meanwhile, the Coalition Press Information Center said Monday that U.S. troops had captured a former Iraqi Special Forces officer and Fedayeen Saddam leader suspected in attacks on U.S.-led coalition forces.
Soldiers captured Kathim Mohammad Faris # also known as Abu Ka’af # on Saturday about 50 miles (77 kilometers) west of Baghdad, near Habbiniya.
Faris is linked to Khamis Sirhan, a Baath Party regional chairman who is No. 54 on the most-wanted list.
In the raid, soldiers also confiscated machine guns, rifles, ammunition, flares, fake identification cards, a computer, fax machine, chemical protective masks and two new automobiles, the press center said.