BAGHDAD – The U.S. military announced Tuesday that 10 American soldiers were killed in Iraq on Memorial Day, making May the deadliest month for U.S. troops in 2 1/2 years, as insurgents continued attacks on official and civilian targets.
Gunmen dressed in police uniforms staged a well-coordinated kidnapping at Iraq’s Finance Ministry and abducted five people whom the British Foreign Office identified as British citizens. Two vehicle bombings in Baghdad left at least 44 people dead and 74 wounded. And the bodies of 32 men – all shot and tortured, some handcuffed and blindfolded – were found in two locations north and south of the capital on Tuesday, a senior Iraqi security official said.
U.S. officials have warned that a strategy of putting more U.S. troops on the streets and in small combat outposts, part of a new security plan launched in February, would lead to higher casualties. But Tuesday’s carnage suggested that the plan had not yet created a safer security environment.
And the complex operations launched against U.S. and coalition forces Monday and Tuesday demonstrated that the insurgency here also is adopting more sophisticated tactics and weapons.
Eight of the U.S. fatalities Monday occurred in the same incident: a U.S. helicopter crashed in Diyala province, north of Baghdad, killing two soldiers, and insurgents then ambushed a rapid response team that was rushing to rescue them, killing another six with a barrage of roadside bombs, said Lt. Col. Christopher Garver, a military spokesman.
In the case of the helicopter crash, Garver said, it was unclear whether the roadside bombs were there beforehand, or were put in place there after the helicopter went down.
Provincial police Capt. Muhannad al-Bawi said it was shot down near Muqdadiyah, about 50 miles northeast of the capital. A spokesman for the Islamic State of Iraq, a Sunni insurgent group with ties to al-Qaida in Iraq, asserted responsibility.
Two more soldiers were killed Monday by a roadside bomb in south Baghdad, the military reported.
With 113 fatalities so far, according to an Associated Press count, May is the third deadliest month of the war. The most lethal months were November and April 2004, with 137 and 135 American fatalities respectively, when the U.S. military launched two offensives against Sunni insurgents in the town of Fallujah, 25 miles west of Baghdad.
Meanwhile, the British Foreign Office mobilized its crisis management task force, dubbed COBRA, to respond to the kidnapping of five British citizens from the Iraq Finance Ministry shortly before 9 a.m. Tuesday.