March 12, 2008 / 9:13 PM / 12 years ago

Three U.S. soldiers killed in southeastern Iraq: military

BAGHDAD (Reuters) - Three U.S. soldiers were killed in an apparent rocket or mortar attack near Nassiriya in southeastern Iraq on Wednesday, the U.S. military said.

U.S. soldiers patrol as smoke rises from a house bombed by U.S warplanes in a village south of Baquba, 65 km (40 miles) northeast of Baghdad January 14, 2008. Three U.S. soldiers were killed in an apparent rocket or mortar attack near Nassiriya in southeastern Iraq on Wednesday, the U.S. military said. REUTERS/Stringer

Another two U.S. soldiers were wounded in what the military said in a statement was an “indirect fire attack”, a term usually used to describe rocket or mortar fire, near Nassiriya, about 375 km (235 miles) southeast of Baghdad.

Iraqi police and hospital officials said up to 16 people were killed on a bus near Nassiriya on Tuesday in an apparent roadside bomb attack aimed at a passing U.S. military convoy.

The U.S. military has said of that incident that the bus was hit by an explosively formed penetrator, a particularly deadly, armor piercing form of roadside bomb, but that no one was killed.

The bus was carrying members of a family returning from funeral observances in the holy Shi’ite city of Najaf, witnesses and police said.

An al-Qaeda-linked group in Iraq claimed responsibility for a suicide bombing in central Baghdad that killed five U.S. soldiers on Monday, according to the SITE Institute, a U.S.-based terrorism monitoring service.

It said the Islamic State of Iraq had said a bomber wearing an explosive belt had carried out the attack in a communique issued to jihadist forums on the Internet.

The latest deaths take to at least 3,987 the number of U.S. troops killed in Iraq since the U.S.-led invasion to topple Saddam Hussein in March 2003, according to Web site www.icasualties.org.

Fourteen U.S. soldiers have been killed in Iraq so far in March, compared with a total of 81 in all of March 2007. Eight were killed in two separate bombings in Baghdad and in volatile Diyala province northeast of the capital on Monday.

There has been an upsurge of attacks in Iraq over the past two months, although overall levels of violence have fallen sharply since last June, when an extra 30,000 U.S. troops became fully deployed.

Reporting by Paul Tait

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