BAGHDAD (AFP) – Five American soldiers were killed in central Iraq on Monday, the deadliest day for US troops there in more than two years, with just months to go before all US forces must withdraw from Iraq completely.
The US military did not give details on how the soldiers died, but an Iraqi interior ministry official and an Iraqi police officer said five rockets struck the sprawling American Camp Victory base on Baghdad’s outskirts.
“Five US service members were killed Monday in central Iraq,” a US army statement said, without giving further details.
Captain Dan Churchill, a US military spokesman, declined to give details on how the soldiers died when contacted by AFP.
The Iraqi officials both said the bodies of two apparent insurgents were found outside the American base, badly burned from two rockets having exploded inside their vehicle. Both officials said five rockets hit Camp Victory.
It was the highest number of American service personnel killed in a single day since May 11, 2009, when a US soldier was arrested and charged for having opened fire on five of his comrades on a base just outside Baghdad.
Monday’s deaths bring to 4,459 the number of American soldiers to die in Iraq since the US-led invasion to oust Saddam Hussein in 2003, according to an AFP tally based on independent website www.icasualties.org.
Some 45,000 US soldiers are still based in Iraq, primarily charged with training and equipping their Iraqi counterparts, though they still take part in joint counter-terror operations.
All American forces must withdraw from Iraq completely by the end of the year, under the terms of a bilateral security pact.
Iraqi leaders are still considering whether to request an extension of the US military presence, and top American officials have pressed their Iraqi counterparts to decide soon.