8 US SOLDIERS KILLED IN IRAQ – while Britain is sending 150 more troops

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EIGHT US soldiers have been killed across Iraq in the past four days, including three in roadside bombings Wednesday morning, the US military said.

Two were killed when their vehicle was struck by a bomb south of Baghdad at around 9.20am (0520 GMT) Wednesday, the military said, adding that another soldier died in a similar bombing east of Baghdad.

Three soldiers died on Tuesday after their vehicle was struck by a roadside bomb north of Baghdad, the military said.

One soldier died on Monday from wounds suffered in enemy action on Sunday while operating in the western Al-Anbar province.

Near Balad, north of Baghdad, a soldier was killed on Sunday when his patrol was hit by a roadside bomb, the military said, adding that another soldier was wounded.

The latest fatalities brought the US military personnel death toll in Iraq since the March 2003 invasion to 2,380 according to the latest count, which show that everywhere where US troops show themselves they risk deadly attacks, despite all of the efforts to reduce US casualties.

The overstretch of the British military continues with the news that 150 British troops will be deployed to Iraq in the next 24 hours to provide extra manpower during troop rotation.

This is despite the fact that thousands of British troops are being sent to Helmand province in Afghanistan where they have begun to take casualties, with two soldiers seriously injured on Tuesday after an attack on their vehicle.

British commanders said on Wednesday in relation to the Iraqi reinforcement: ‘We are going over there as additional to plug-the-gaps as the changeover will leave fewer people available to guard.’

Lieutenant Colonel Peter Merriman, the commanding officer added that two companies are to be deployed from this British base in Cyprus.

The reinforcement mission for the troops from the 600-strong Second Battalion, Royal Regiment of Fusiliers is expected to last up to eight weeks as Britain rotates its 7th and 20th Armoured Brigades in southern Iraq.

The regiment arrived in Cyprus in December to train as the theatre reserve battalion for Iraq.

Its soldiers had previously served a five-year tour of duty in Northern Ireland but very few of those being sent to Iraq saw active duty there.

As of February 28, a total of 103 British personnel had died in Iraq since the March 2003 invasion.

Britain currently has some 8,000 soldiers deployed in Iraq but government ministers have indicated there could be scope for a drawdown later this year.

Meanwhile the Iraqi puppet Interior Minister, Bayan Jabr Solagh, has admitted ‘death squads’ who wear police uniforms and ride in police vehicles are murdering large numbers of Iraqis.

Solagh, on Wednesday, acknowledged the existence of so-called death squads within certain security forces but denied any link with his own ministry, despite the allegations that the Ministry of the Interior operates death squads and even controls a number of ‘torture chambers’.

Bayan Jabr Solagh, pointed the finger of blame at special security forces that provide protection for ministries and key installations, as well as the myriad private security companies in Iraq.

Asked if there were unofficial death squads operating within these security forces, he replied: ‘Sometimes, yes, I can tell you . . . with these security companies it is not right . . . you do not know what they are doing.

‘We have to make clear that there are some forces out of order, not under our control and not under the control of the ministry of defence,’ he said.

‘These forces are the FPS to protect the ministries,’ he said, referring to special security forces known as Force Protection for Site (FPS) which protect ministry buildings, power stations or oil pipelines.

‘And their numbers are huge . . . there are 150,000 of them,’ he said.

As well ‘Their uniform is like the police, their car is like the police, their weapons are like the police.’

A recent upsurge of sectarian violence in Iraq that has left hundreds of dead is being blamed by large numbers of people on pro-government militias wearing uniforms belonging to the security forces.

‘Terrorists or someone who supports the terrorists. . . are using the clothes of the police or the military,’ Solagh added in his comments.

Meanwhile, the Arab foreign ministers meeting in Cairo last Wednesday, to try to draw up a common strategy on Iraq, was boycotted by the puppet Baghdad regime in protest at the criticism of its Shi’ite-led government by Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak.

The meeting was called to discuss ‘the dangerous internal situation in Iraq’ and urge Iraqis ‘to put an end to violence,’ said Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Abul Gheit.

The Iraqi puppet Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari had been due to brief the talks about the long drawn out efforts to form a national unity government which have lasted for nearly four months.

But the Iraqi seat at the meeting held at the Arab League headquarters in Cairo remained empty.

‘Iraq was not present at the meeting, no Iraqi representative took part,’ an Arab League spokesman said.

Iraqi Prime Minister Ibrahim Jaafari, who is refusing to carry out US-UK orders and give up the Iraqi premiership announced Tuesday that Baghdad would boycott the talks, saying: ‘We want to show our brothers the need to support Iraq.’

Mubarak sparked anger with his remarks to Arabic television station Al-Arabiya last week claiming that Iraqi Shi’ites were under the sway of Iran and that their country was in a state of civil war.

Mubarak also charged that all Shi’ite Muslims were loyal first and foremost to Iraq’s powerful neighbour Iran rather than their own nations.

Egyptian presidential spokesman Suleiman Awad had tried to play down his comments, saying Mubarak’s intention was not to attack the Shi’ites of Iraq, who make up the majority of the population.

‘We must not ignore the context of President Mubarak’s comments, which expressed his deep concern for the situation in Iraq and his hope for the success of political channels,’ Awad told Egypt’s official news agency MENA.

Awad stressed that Mubarak ‘makes no distinction between Iraqi citizens, who are all one people.’

Cairo’s meeting grouped the foreign ministers of Bahrain, Egypt, Jordan, Kuwait, Syria and Saudi Arabia as well as diplomats from Algeria, Sudan and the United Arab Emirates and Arab League chief Amr Mussa.

The 22-member Arab League had announced Thursday it was planning to send a delegation to Baghdad this week to open an office in the city, paving the way for a stronger Arab involvement in post-Saddam Iraq, despite the fact that the country is still under occupation.

Arab leaders held a summit in Khartoum last month that called for a stronger Arab role in the future of Iraq, which has remained engulfed by violence caused by the US-led invasion.

Until now the Arab League, reflecting its opposition to the 2003 invasion which toppled Saddam, had refused to open an office in Baghdad, where Arab diplomats have often been targeted by insurgents.