BAGHDAD, Iraq – American forces killed more than 40 insurgents, including a known al-Qaida operative, in five raids south of Baghdad, and militants downed a U.S. helicopter during the fighting, killing the two soldiers aboard, the U.S. command said Monday.
The raids took place over the weekend in an area commonly known as the "Triangle of Death" because of the large number of insurgent attacks.
Insurgents also launched new attacks Monday. They fired more than 30 mortar rounds at a British military camp in southern Iraq, wounding four soldiers. Elsewhere, 19 Iraqi Iraqis were killed, including eight police officers in southern Basra and one in a roadside bomb attack that hit an oil tanker in Baghdad, sending a large plume of black smoke billowing over the capital.
Four of the U.S. military raids occurred on Saturday and Sunday around Latifiyah, 30 kilometers (20 miles) south of Baghdad, the U.S. command said.
American soldiers and helicopters killed 16 suspected al-Qaida insurgents, including one militant who allegedly had led an April 1 militant attack that downed an AH-64 U.S. Apache helicopter and killed the two soldiers aboard in the Youssifiyah area, about 20 kilometers (12 miles) south of Baghdad.
A new al-Qaida group had claimed responsibility for downing that Apache and posted a gruesome video on the Web showing men dragging the burning body of what appeared to be an American soldier across a field as they shouted "Allahu Akbar," or "God is great!"
During the Latifiyah raids, U.S. forces killed al-Qaida member Abu Mustafa and 15 other suspected al-Qaida associates, the U.S. command said. Abu Mustafa was wanted for "his leadership role" in the shooting down of an Apache helicopter on April 1, the U.S. command said.
The weekend raids also wounded four Iraqi civilians and two suspected militants, and detained eight suspected insurgents, the military said. The wounded included two women, one of whom was pregnant, and two children, the U.S. military said. All of them were treated or were evacuated to an American military hospital.
In a separate raid Sunday, U.S. forces and American planes and helicopters attacked an insurgent haven in Youssifiyah, killing 25 insurgents, detaining four and destroying three "safe houses" and a vehicle loaded with weapons and ammunition, the U.S. command said.
Three civilians, a woman and two girls, were wounded in that raid.
When U.S helicopters, including one carrying two of the wounded females, were leaving the scene, insurgents downed one U.S. helicopter, killing two American soldiers aboard.
The deaths of those two U.S. soldiers brought Iraq's weekend toll to seven American servicemen. They includes two U.S. Marines who died Sunday during unspecified "enemy action" in Anbar Province, the area of western Iraq that is the heart of the Sunni-Arab led insurgency. Two U.S. Army soldiers also died Sunday in a roadside bomb attack in Baghdad, and another one died in a roadside bomb in the capital on Saturday.
The fatalities raised to at least 2,443 the number of U.S. military personnel who have died since the Iraq war began in 2003, according to a count by The Associated Press.
In other attacks Monday, insurgents fired more than 30 mortar rounds at a British military camp in southern Iraq, wounding four soldiers.
The mortar barrage occurred at about 4:30 a.m. (0030 GMT) Monday at Britain's Camp Abu Naji in Amarah, 290 kilometers (180 miles) southeast of Baghdad, said British spokeswoman Capt. Kelly Goodall. One of the British soldiers received a serious leg injury, but the other wounds were minor, said Holly Wheeler, a British Ministry of Defense spokeswoman in London.
The attack raised the total of British casualties in Iraq over the past nine days to six soldiers killed and five wounded. The attacks all occurred in southern Iraq, an area that has traditionally been far more peaceful that central and northern Iraq where U.S. forces are based.
On Saturday, two British soldiers were killed and one was wounded by a roadside bomb as they patrolled in their armored vehicle north of Basra city.
On May 6, four British soldiers died when their helicopter crashed in Basra, apparently downed by a missile. The attack triggered a confrontation in which jubilant Iraqi residents pelted British rescuers with stones, hurled firebombs and shouted slogans in support of a radical Shiite cleric. Five Iraqi civilians, including a child, died and about 30 were wounded in the melee as Shiite gunmen and British soldiers exchange.
A total of 111 British service personnel have died since U.S.-led coalition forces invaded Iraq in 2003, according to a count by The Associated Press.
On Monday, tribesmen killed eight Iraqi police officers and wounded 10 in clashes just outside Basra. The clashes broke out when the tribesmen took over a police station just outside the city after a group of men wearing police uniforms allegedly gunned down a local leader from the Garmasha tribe, said police Cap. Mushtaq Khazim.
Three teachers, two brothers and a cousin, were killed along with their driver as they were heading to their school in a village near Balad Ruz, a town 80 kilometers (50 miles) northeast of Baghdad, police said. The attackers and the victims were both riding in minibuses when teh gunmen forced one over and killed them. The small private vehicles charge small fees to transport the general public.
In central Baghdad, a roadside bomb targeting a police patrol missed the officers but killed one civilian, wounded four and set fire to an oil tanker parked nearby. "The explosion caused a huge fire," said police Capt. Ziyad Naji.
Three drive-by shootings and three other roadside bombs in Baghdad and other cities killed six Iraqis and wounded seven, police said.