Five US troops killed after leaving vehicles

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The Independent Online

A suicide bomber detonated explosives in the middle of a United States military patrol which had dismounted from their vehicles in Baghdad yesterday, killing five and wounding three American soldiers in the most lethal attack on US forces in a year.

"I was driving through alMansur district when I saw the American soldiers get out of their Humvees," said an Iraqi journalist working for The Independent. "It was close to a roundabout where US troops and security company vehicles belonging to Blackwater often pass. I heard the roar of a tremendous explosion which smashed the rear window of my car and pieces of metal and stone damaged the bodywork."

In the aftermath of the attack US soldiers sealed off the area and Apache helicopters circled overhead.

The casualties yesterday bring the number of American military dead since the invasion of 2003 to 3,979 and the wounded to 29,000, though losses have fallen sharply since July last year.

Despite many of the Sunni guerrillas, who formerly targeted US troops, changing sides and joining the US as members of al-Sahwa in battling al Qai'da in Iraq. it is clear that al Qa'ida is still able to launch several well planned suicide bombings on the same day. In another suicide attack yesterday a woman killed a Sunni Arab tribal chief who was an important local leader of al –Sahwa or the Awakening Council in Diyala province. Police said she went to the home of Thaer Saggban al-Karkhi in Kanaan, southeast of the provincial capital Baquba, where she knocked on the door and told guards she needed to speak to him because her husband had been kidnapped. When he came to the door she detonated a vest packed with explosives hidden under her robes. Mr Kharki's five-year-old niece was killed with him and two of his bodyguards were wounded. Al Qaida is increasingly using women as suicide bombers because male guards are inhibited from searching them. There have been 19 attacks or attempted attacks by women bombers since 1 February when they killed 99 people in two bird markets in Baghdad.

This attack, along with others made on al-Sahwa leaders, show that al Qa'ida still has precise intelligence on where its opponents are to be found. There is also no sign of it running short of suicide bombers or the means to equip them. The attack on US soldiers by a suicide bomber is not common since al Qa;ida normally target Shia civilians or Sunni oppondents.

For all the much-publicised fall in violence in Iraq the improvement is only relative to the sectarian civil war between Sunni and Shia in 2006 and early 2007. Often the motive of the killing is unknown and the most selfless are killed or kidnapped.

In southern Iraq yesterday the body of Dr Khalid Nasir al-Miyahi, the only neuro-surgeon in Basra, a city of two million people, was found. He had been kidnapped the previous day. Some 618 medical employees, including 132 doctors, have been killed since 2003 according to the Health Ministry in Baghdad while several thousand doctors have fled to Jordan and Syria.