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Deaths of 3 bring April U.S. toll to 18

Two Marines and a sailor were killed during combat operations in western al-Anbar province Thursday, the U.S. military announced Friday, bringing to 18 the number of American casualties in Iraq during April.

April was the deadliest month in Iraq since September both for Iraqi civilians and U.S. soldiers, according to figures released Friday, but the overall number of attacks remains low compared with previous years of the war, the U.S. military said.

At a briefing for journalists at the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad, chief military spokesman Brig. Gen. David Perkins said the U.S. military had detected no overall increase in the number of attacks. Rather, he said, the insurgency had shifted its tactics to focus on killing large numbers of civilians.

“They’re not anywhere near the number we had a year or a year and a half ago,” he said of the attacks. “They’re going after soft targets that give them a lot of visibility.”

The Iraqi Ministry of Health reported that 355 Iraqis died in violence nationwide last month, 290 of them in bombings that included several high-profile attacks in which dozens of people died.

Caracas, Venezuela

Police crack down on Chavez protest

Hundreds of Venezuelan police and National Guard troops broke up a protest march Friday with volleys of tear gas and blasts from water cannons that scattered a crowd of President Hugo Chavez’s opponents.

Officials said about 20 people were treated for minor injuries, mostly for inhaling tear gas, while one police officer and a demonstrator suffered small cuts when they were hit by hurled objects. Some marchers were carried away after being overcome by tear gas.

People in surrounding buildings threw glass bottles at officers, and police responded throwing tear gas canisters at the buildings.

Police broke up the demonstration as thousands of opponents and supporters of Chavez held separate May Day marches, bringing together labor groups and partisan demonstrators.

Kabul, Afghanistan

Three Americans among five killed

Three Americans and two other international troops were killed Friday in an attack in eastern Afghanistan, officials said.

Insurgents attacked Afghan and international forces Friday with rocket-propelled grenades and guns, NATO forces said in a statement. The troops called in air support, forcing the militants to withdraw. They are being pursued, the statement said.

Col. Greg Julian, a spokesman for U.S. Forces in Afghanistan, confirmed that three of the dead service members were Americans.

The Taliban have vowed to increase ambushes and other attacks as an additional 21,000 U.S. troops flood into Afghanistan this summer in an attempt to stem the group’s resurgence and bolster security for August presidential elections.

From wire reports

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