BAGHDAD – May is not yet over, and already it has recorded the third-highest monthly death toll for American forces in Iraq since the war began four years ago.
The military announced that 10 soldiers were killed in roadside bombings and a helicopter crash on Memorial Day. As of late Tuesday, there were at least 113 U.S. deaths in Iraq so far in May, with two days left in the month.
Eight of the U.S. soldiers killed on Monday were from Task Force Lightning. Six were killed in an insurgent roadside bomb ambush as they raced to rescue the two others, who died in a helicopter crash. The military did not say if the helicopter was shot down or had mechanical problems.
All eight died in Diyala province.
Two other American troops died Monday in a roadside bombing in south Baghdad, the military said in a separate statement.
Violence in Diyala, northeast of Baghdad, has surged since shortly before the U.S. military’s offensive on Baghdad began in mid-February. U.S. forces have found themselves battling multiple factions, including members of former dictator Saddam Hussein’s Baath Party, foreign-led al-Qaida forces, and Shiite Muslim militias, which the U.S. military blames for the use of lethal armor-piercing bombs.
After three years of single-digit fatalities, Diyala’s U.S. military death toll climbed to 16 in January, and rose to 22 this month.
U.S. Army Maj. Gen. Benjamin Mixon, the commander in charge of northern Iraq, said in mid-May he needed even more soldiers in Diyala. “I do not have enough soldiers in Diyala province to keep that security situation moving,” he said.
Since the war began in March 2003, only two other months have recorded higher death tolls: November 2004 with 137 deaths and April 2004 with 135 fatalities.
Across the country Tuesday, police and morgue officials reported a total of at least 120 Iraqis killed or found dead.
Also Tuesday, gunmen in police uniforms and driving vehicles used by security forces kidnapped five Britons from an Iraqi Finance Ministry office, and a senior Iraqi official said the Shiite Mahdi Army militia was suspected.
The kidnappings, if the work of the Mahdi Army as asserted by Iraqi officials, could be retaliation for the killing by British forces last week of the militia’s commander in Basra.