Four US marines killed in Iraq roadside bombings

Four US Marines died in a pair of roadside bombings in western Iraq’s volatile Anbar province, the military said today. Another explosion killed two Iraqi civilians south of Baghdad.

The blasts highlight the constant danger posed by home-made bombs across Iraq, which have become the deadliest weapon used by mainly Sunni Arab insurgents against the US-led military presence in the country.

Three Marines were killed by a bomb blast yesterday in Hit, 85 miles west of Baghdad, according to a statement.

The victims were assigned to the 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit that has operated in Anbar province since mid-December with an Iraqi army battalion.

Another Marine, attached to the 2nd Marine Division, II Marine Expeditionary Force, died from wounds caused by a bomb blast on Sunday in an unspecified location within Anbar, which includes the cities of Fallujah and Ramadi.

The latest deaths take the number of US military personnel killed to at least 2,257 since the Iraq war began in March 2003.

Early today, a roadside bomb struck a pickup truck south of Baghdad and killed two Iraqi civilians, while gunmen shot dead a supporter of fiery anti-US cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, police said.

The blast happened near a bridge in Youssifiyah, 12 miles south of Baghdad, and destroyed the vehicle the two people were travelling in, said Capt. Muthana Khaled. It was unclear if the civilians were the target of the attack.

Drive-by gunmen killed a supporter of radical Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr in Baghdad’s southern Dora neighbourhood, said Lt. Maitham Abdul-Razzaq. The victim worked at al-Sadr’s office in Mahmoudiya, about 20 miles south of Baghdad.

The incident appeared to be the latest bout in a spate of sectarian-related killings carried out by rival armed Shiite and Sunni Arab groups vying for ascendancy in post-Saddam Hussein Iraq.

The killings also come amid efforts to form a national unity government comprising members of the country’s Shiite, Sunni Arab and Kurdish communities. The United States hopes such a government could help reduce the incessant violence.

Another roadside bomb wounded four policemen in western Basra, 340 miles south-east of Baghdad, said police Lt. Col. Karim al-Zubaidi.

A home-made bomb exploded in a bin in the western Baghdad neighbourhood of Jihad, blowing an oil refinery worker’s hand off, said Abdul-Razzaq.

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