BAGHDAD, Iraq – The bodies of two U.S. soldiers missing since a helicopter crash this week were found west of Baghdad, the U.S. military said Friday. That brought the number of U.S. troops to die this month in Iraq to at least 19 — most in insurgent-plagued Anbar province.
Four U.S. service members — two from the Army and two from the Navy — were injured when the U.S. Army UH60 Blackhawk helicopter went down Tuesday. The military has said the crash was not due to hostile fire.
All but five of the U.S. military deaths in Iraq this month have occurred in Anbar province, the Sunni Arab-dominated province west of Baghdad that has long been a center of the insurgency against the U.S.-led coalition.
That shows the continuing threat from Sunni Arab insurgents despite the attention directed to Sunni-Shiite violence in Baghdad, which U.S. officials now describe as the greatest danger facing Iraq's new government of national unity.
U.S. commanders are rushing nearly 12,000 American and Iraqi troops into the capital to try to curb sectarian fighting. The military has not said how many reinforcements have arrived in Baghdad, but some soldiers of the Army's 172nd Stryker Brigade have been seen on the city's streets.
The brigade, with its distinctive Stryker armored vehicles, was shifted from northern Iraq as part of the campaign to bolster security in Baghdad.
Baghdad was generally quiet Friday as a vehicle ban kept private cars and trucks off the streets for much of the day. The government restricts use of private cars in Baghdad on Fridays, the main Muslim day of worship, to prevent car bomb attacks on mosques.
Baghdad Coalition forces captured a wanted terrorist leader and detained six suspects during coordinated raids in Bayji Aug. 11.
The targeted individual is reported to be a new senior Al Qaeda in Iraq leader in the Bayji terrorist network and a current standing member of the Bayji Mujahidin Shura Council. He is additionally reported to be supplying terrorists to Al Qaeda in Baghdad to target innocent Iraqis.
However, Shiite assailants ransacked and burned a provincial office of the Iraqi president's Kurdish party early Friday, accusing its official newspaper of unfairly criticizing a Shiite cleric, police said.
About 50 armed followers of Shiite cleric Ayatollah Mohammed al-Yacoubi stormed the office of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, headed by President Jalal Talabani, beat up the guards and destroyed furniture before setting the building on fire, said police Lt. Othman al-Lami.
The attackers fled after seizing three AK-47 rifles from the guards, one of whom was injured, al-Lami said. There were no officials in the office during the early morning raid in Kut, 100 miles southeast of Baghdad.
The offending article in the PUK newspaper included a July 29 statement by al-Yacoubi in which he accused Kurds in the Kurdish-dominated Tamim province, which includes the oil-rich city of Kirkuk, of attacking Arabs and Turkomen.
It said al-Yacoubi was spreading "hatred against the Kurds" and trying to "ignite a war between the Arab Shiites and Kurds."
In a statement Friday, Talabani acknowledged that some of the phrases used in his party newspaper's article were "inappropriate ... despite the bitterness that he and every Kurdish felt" over al-Yacoubi's purported statement.
He said he was not aware of the article's contents until it was published.
Al-Yacoubi, the spiritual leader of the Fadhila, or Virtue, party, which is part of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's Shiite alliance, was not immediately available for comment.
However, the Fadhila is demanding an official apology from the PUK, said party spokesman Sabah al-Saiedi. Al-Yacoubi is urging his followers not to resort to violence, al-Saiedi said, after a party delegation met Friday with Talabani.
Kirkuk is a center of ethnic tension among Kurds, Arabs and Turkomen because of rival claims to the city and its vast oil resources. Many Kurds would like to see the area incorporated into their three-province self-ruled region, a move strongly opposed by Arabs and Turkomen.
In Beiji, 155 miles north of Baghdad, U.S. troops captured a "wanted terrorist leader" and detained 11 other suspects, the U.S. command said. The terrorist leader was not identified, but a U.S. statement said he was a member of the Al Qaeda-affiliated Mujahedeen Shura Council and had been sending fighters to the Baghdad area.
In other developments Friday:
—Gunmen shot and killed three people in Baghdad. one in the northern city of Mosul and in Muqdadiyah northeast of the capital, police said.
—Police found six unidentified bodies in different parts of the capital. All had been shot execution-style, police said.