BAGHDAD – Suspected al-Qaida bombers stepped up attacks on key transportation arteries, striking a bridge north of the capital Monday a day after shutting the superhighway south of Baghdad with a huge explosion that collapsed an overpass and killed three U.S. soldiers.
On Monday, a parked truck bomb blew apart the bridge that carries traffic over the Diyala river in Baqouba, police said. There were no casualties, but motorists and truckers now must use a road that runs through al-Qaida-controlled territory to reach important nearby cities.
Baqouba is the capital of Diyala province, which is swarming with al-Qaida fighters. Those militants were driven out of Baghdad by the four-month-old U.S. security operation and out of Anbar province west of the capital by Sunni tribesman who rose up against the terrorist group.
Earlier this month, a bomb heavily damaged the Sarhat Bridge, a key crossing 90 miles north of the capital on a major road.
In March and April, three of Baghdad’s 13 bridges over the Tigris river were bombed. The attacks were blamed on Sunni insurgent or al-Qaida attempts to divide the city’s predominantly Shiite east bank from the mostly Sunni western side of the river.
U.S. forces used bulldozers Monday to push aside the rubble of the overpass that crashed Sunday onto Iraq’s main north-south highway just east of Mahmoudiyah.
The suicide truck bombing 20 miles south of Baghdad not only brought down a section of the bridge, it killed three U.S. soldiers at a checkpoint and wounded six other American soldiers along with an Iraqi interpreter, the U.S. military said.
Also Monday, Iraqi lawmakers, under pressure from Washington to prove political progress that might expedite an end to the war, voted to oust their parliament speaker for rude behavior.
Declaring the speaker’s latest outburst the final straw, the Shiite-led body decided to request that Mahmoud al-Mashhadani, a Sunni, be ousted. The move will not affect the balance of power in the lawmaking body, which requires that he be replaced by another Sunni. Al-Mashhadani will retain his parliament seat.
Al-Mashhadani’s behavior has included slapping a fellow lawmaker and cursing him on the floor of parliament. He also said from the parliament speaker’s chair that those who attack American forces should be treated as heroes.
U.S. military deaths
The latest identifications reported by the U.S. military of personnel killed in Iraq:
Army Staff Sgt. Brian M. Long, 32, Burns, Wyo.; killed Sunday in Baghdad by an explosive; assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 3rd Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division (Stryker Brigade Combat Team), Fort Lewis.
Army Pvt. Scott A. Miller, 20, Casper, Wyo.; killed Saturday in Baqubah by small-arms fire; assigned to the 5th Battalion, 20th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division (Stryker Brigade Combat Team), Fort Lewis.
Army Sgt. Cory M. Endlich, 23, Massillon, Ohio; killed Saturday in Taji by small-arms fire; assigned to the 2nd Squadron, 1st Cavalry Regiment, 4th Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division (Stryker Brigade Combat Team), Fort Lewis.