As the U.S. military announced the deaths of six U.S. troops Wednesday, the U.S. command confirmed moves to step up training on how to combat roadside bombs, now the biggest killer of U.S. troops in Iraq. The U.S. command said it is accelerating counterinsurgency training for newly arrived officers, including the best ways to protect their troops against roadside bombs. Lt. Col. Steve Boylan, the U.S. military spokesman in Baghdad, said the U.S. command would soon open a training school at Taji, an air base 12 miles north of Baghdad.
The latest U.S. deaths follow the fourth-deadliest month for U.S. troops since the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq. Most of the 96 Americans killed in October were victims of roadside bombs.
The deaths announced Wednesday: •A Marine helicopter crashed Wednesday just north of Ramadi, killing its two Marine crew members, the military said. The cause of the crash was under investigation.
•A U.S. soldier was mortally wounded in Balad, 50 miles north of Baghdad, when his patrol came under small arms fire Wednesday. One insurgent was killed when the U.S. patrol returned fire, and another died when a U.S. Air Force jet blasted the building where he had taken refuge, the military said.
•A soldier from the Army's Task Force Baghdad was killed by a roadside bomb Wednesday in a southern district of Baghdad.
•A U.S. Marine and sailor were killed late Tuesday when a roadside bomb exploded near their vehicle in Ramadi.
At least 2,035 U.S. military service members have died since the Iraq conflict began in March 2003, according to an Associated Press count. Meanwhile, a suicide bomber detonated a minibus Wednesday in an outdoor market packed with shoppers ahead of the three-day Eid al-Fitr holiday that marks the end of the Islamic holy month of Ramadan. At least 22 people were killed and 61 wounded in the attack in Musayyib, a Shi'ite town south of Baghdad.
The Iraqi government called Wednesday for the return of junior officers from the disbanded army of Saddam Hussein, openly reversing a controversial U.S. directive issued in 2003.
The move is aimed at draining the Sunni-led insurgency of recruits and bolstering the Iraqi security forces, Iraqi officials said. The Defense Ministry, with the support of the U.S. military, has quietly recruited a few thousand former officers over the last 18 months. But this is the first time it has offered an open invitation to broad classes of former officers to rejoin the armed forces.
With the announcement Wednesday, any former officers up to the rank of major are eligible for reinstatement by applying in November at recruitment centers in six cities across Iraq, reports New York Times. I.L.