BAGHDAD, Iraq – A top Iraqi official accused the country’s neighbors Tuesday of doing too little to stop foreigners from joining the brutal insurgency, while the U.S. combat death toll neared 1,000 with the killing of an American soldier in Baghdad.
In a speech to the Iraqi National Council, the deputy prime minister, Barham Saleh, said he was losing patience with Iraq’s neighbors. He didn’t single out any governments, but noted that Iraqi police had arrested a Syrian driving a car bomb packed with artillery shells and other explosives.
“There is evidence indicating that some groups in some neighboring countries are playing a direct role in the killing of the Iraqi people and such a thing is not acceptable to us,” Saleh said. “We have reached a stage in which if we do not see a real response from those countries, then we are obliged to take a decisive stance.”
Iraqi leaders have repeatedly called on their neighbors – particularly Syria and Iran – to guard their borders more closely against infiltration. Those countries have expressed concern that instability in Iraq poses a threat to the entire region.
U.S. soldiers, meanwhile, arrested several people described as suspected senior “transnational terrorists” in a raid Monday night on a sports complex in Baghdad, the military said Tuesday. It did not identify the suspects or say where they were from.
“This operation put a serious dent in the transnational terrorism in Baghdad,” Col. Robert Abrams, commander of the 1st Cavalry Division’s 1st Brigade Combat Team, was quoted as saying in a military statement.
The American soldier slain Tuesday was gunned down by small-arms fire while on patrol in Baghdad. As of 10 a.m. Tuesday, the Pentagon Web site listed the number of combat deaths as 999; it was not clear if the soldier was included.
The military also announced a Marine died in a vehicle accident in western Baghdad. The two deaths brought the number of U.S. military who have died since the beginning of the Iraq war in March 2003 to 1,278, according to an Associated Press tally.
Also, three Iraqi National Guardsmen were killed in a roadside bomb attack Monday as they patrolled near Jebala, an Iraqi National Guard official said. And a roadside bomb exploded near a police patrol in Basra at 8:30 p.m., killing one policeman and wounding five.
Several attacks in recent days have resulted in more than 80 Iraqi deaths.