5 U.S. troops die in Iraq fighting

BAGHDAD, Iraq – Five American troops were killed during fighting in Al Anbar province, the U.S. military said Thursday, bringing to at least 96 the number slain this month – the blood-iest since October 2005. Meanwhile, U.S. troops in the capital continued searching for a comrade believed kidnapped earlier in the week.

Elsewhere, bands of gunmen attacked Iraqi security forces north of the capital in Baqubah and outlying villages on Thursday in what appeared a coordinated strike against police positions. At least 28 police officers were killed and 10 wounded in a series of attacks and ambushes. As many as 50 officers are still missing, according to local authorities.

And in Najaf, authorities closed the most sacred Shiite Muslim shrine in the country following a tip about explosives allegedly smuggled into ancient parts of the southern city. Shopkeepers were asked to close and leave and cars were banned anywhere near the Imam Ali shrine, police said.

Of the American troops, one sailor assigned to 3rd Naval Construction Regiment, two Marines assigned to Regimental Combat Team 5 and two Marines assigned to Regimental Combat Team 7 died Wednesday, the U.S. military said in a statement. More than a third of the U.S. deaths this month have occurred in Al Anbar, a poor and predominantly Sunni Arab province stretching from just outside Baghdad to the western border with Jordan.

The single most deadly month for U.S. troops in the 3 1/2-year-old conflict was November 2004 when U.S. forces invaded the Al Anbar city of Fallujah. That month, 137 U.S. troops died, 126 of them in combat, according to, a Web site that tracks coalition casualties.

In October 2005, 96 U.S. military personnel were killed.

This week, American troops have flooded certain parts of Baghdad searching for the missing U.S. soldier, an Iraqi American working as a translator for a reconstruction team. In a rare raid into Sadr City on Wednesday, troops received intelligence that the soldier was being held at a nearby mosque, which they then searched. He wasn’t there.

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