MOSUL, Iraq – A homicide car bomber targeted a U.S. patrol Tuesday in Mosul, killing at least one Iraqi and wounding as many as 15, the military and police said, a day after a roadside bomb killed five American soldiers in the increasingly lawless northern city.
At a U.S. base outside Mosul, scores of U.S. troops and an honor guard stood at attention on the airfield tarmac as five coffins of their slain comrades were loaded onto a plane for the journey home.
A cold wind blew as the bleak ceremony began at 10 a.m. Five groups of eight pallbearers each took turns unloading a flag-draped coffin from the back of five Humvee ambulances, as about 75 members of the fallen soldiers' unit stood at attention.
At least 100 other soldiers stood erect and silent through the 30-minute ceremony. Even civilian workers at the airport of Forward Operating Base Marez on the outskirts of Mosul formed an honor line as the dead soldiers bodies' were loaded into a gray C-130 transport plane.
Soldiers refused permission to photograph the ceremony, saying the pain of the sudden loss of five comrades was too great, and that not all the families had been notified.
"President Bush should be out here watching this ramp ceremony to see what it is really like," said one soldier, who asked not to be identified.
"The people who created this war need to be thinking about the families of these 18-year-olds who are dying."
In the attack that killed the five Americans, a roadside bomb blew apart a Humvee and gunmen opened fire from a mosque. A fierce gunbattle erupted as U.S. and Iraqi soldiers secured the area, the military said. Iraqi troops entered the mosque but the insurgents had already fled, according to a statement.
Monday's attack on the American patrol was the deadliest roadside bombing since Nov. 5, when four soldiers were killed by a blast that destroyed their Humvee in the northern Tamim province.
It was the deadliest single fatal incident since six soldiers perished Jan. 9 in a booby-trapped house north of Baghdad — raised the Pentagon's January death count to at least 36.
The toll so far is 56 percent higher than December's 23 U.S. military deaths and marks the first monthly increase since August. But the figures remain well below monthly death tolls of more than 100 last spring.
There was other fighting in the neighborhood. An Iraqi officer, declining to be identified because he was not authorized to release the information, said three civilians were wounded and helicopters bombarded buildings in the district, the scene of frequent attacks on U.S. and Iraqi forces.
Also Monday, insurgents attacked four policemen heading home from work south of Mosul, killing two and wounding the other two, Nineveh provincial police said.
Iraqi reinforcements, along with helicopters, tanks and armored vehicles, have converged on Mosul for what Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki pledged would be a decisive battle against Al Qaeda in its last major urban stronghold.
In the Tuesday morning homicide attack in Mosul, the bomber detonated his explosives-laden car, killing one civilian and wounding 15 others in a predominantly Sunni area in eastern Mosul, a police officer said, speaking on condition of anonymity because he wasn't authorized to release the information.
The U.S. military said no American casualties were reported, but one Iraqi had been killed and 15 wounded in the attack. The different Iraqi casualty tolls could not immediately be reconciled.
Tensions in Mosul, Iraq's third largest city, have spiked after an explosion last week in an abandoned apartment that authorities say was used to stash insurgents' weapons and bombs. As many as 60 were killed and 200 injured.
The unrest in Mosul stands in sharp contrast to a significant decline in bloodshed most elsewhere in Iraq in recent months. The relative calm has been credited to a U.S.-led security crackdown — along with a Sunni revolt against Al Qaeda in Iraq and a cease-fire order by radical Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr for his powerful Mahdi Army militia.
In Baghdad, a bombing at a checkpoint Tuesday wounded five American soldiers and three civilians, the U.S. military said. Iraqi officials claimed it was a homicide bombing and said two people were killed.
The attack occurred just after noon when a female bomber detonated her explosives as women were being searched before being allowed to enter a commercial street in the predominantly Sunni Amariyah neighborhood in southwest Baghdad, according to a local police official and an Iraqi army officer who spoke on condition of anonymity because they weren't authorized to release the information.
Navy Cmdr. Scott Rye, a U.S. military spokesman, said initial reporting indicated it was not a homicide attack but a bomb that was left at the checkpoint and later detonated. He said no deaths were reported, but five soldiers and three civilians were wounded.
Such checkpoints have been erected across Baghdad as U.S. and Iraqi authorities have walled off entire neighborhoods as part of a security crackdown that has helped to bring the levels of violence in the capital down more than 50 percent. Women are usually searched separately by female guards because of Islamic sensitivities.
Elsewhere in Baghdad, police reported at least 16 people wounded in two roadside bombings and a mortar attack.
Iraqi police north of the capital found 19 bullet-riddled bodies near the former insurgent stronghold of Muqdadiyah — 10 which were decomposed suggesting they were killed a while ago, and nine that showed signs of torture and appeared to have been killed a few days ago, according to the head of the Baqouba morgue, Ahmed Fouad.