BAGHDAD, Iraq – American troops are stepping up operations in the Baghdad area to combat death squads and dampen the violence threatening the new unity government, a U.S. general said Monday.
Two U.S. soldiers were killed Monday, the military said.
U.S. and Iraqi forces conducted 19 operations last week targeting death squads, U.S. spokesman Maj. Gen. William Caldwell told reporters. All but two were in Baghdad, he said.
“Clearly Baghdad is the center that everybody is fighting for,” Caldwell said. “We will do whatever it takes to bring security to Baghdad.”
Security in the Iraqi capital is expected to figure prominently in talks today in Washington between President Bush and Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki.
Many of the death squads are believed to be associated with Sunni or Shiite armed groups, targeting members of the rival sect in a struggle for power between the country’s two major religious communities.
On Monday, the city morgue in Kut, a mostly Shiite city southeast of Baghdad, reported receiving 19 bodies – blindfolded and some showing signs of torture. They were believed to be victims of sectarian death squads, city officials said.