Seven U.S. Marines were killed in two separate incidents in Iraq's Anbar province, a region encompassing the battleground cities of Fallujah and Ramadi, the military said today...

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BAGHDAD, Iraq — Eight U.S. Marines were killed in two separate incidents in Iraq’s restive Anbar province, the military said today, a day after U.S. warplanes pounded Fallujah with missiles as insurgents battled coalition forces in the city.


The deaths equaled the highest number of Marines killed in a single day since a car bomb killed eight outside Fallujah on Oct. 30, the deadliest attack against the U.S. military in nearly six months.


It was unknown if the deaths yesterday were connected to the fighting in the volatile western city of Fallujah.


In a statement, the military said seven Marines with the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force died while conducting “security-and-stabilization operations” in Anbar province, a vast region that comprises Fallujah and Ramadi.


The military had earlier reported another U.S. Marine death yesterday in Anbar. He was also a member of the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force.


The statement gave no other details about the deaths, saying the release of more information could place U.S. personnel at risk. The names of the dead were withheld pending notification of families.


As of today, at least 1,296 members of the U.S. military have died since the beginning of the Iraq war in March 2003, according to an Associated Press count.


Fallujah was the scene of a weeklong U.S.-led offensive last month to uproot insurgents. U.S. officials had said the insurgents scattered and they were planning the return of the estimated 250,000 people who fled.


The latest violence began with U.S. and Iraqi forces clashing with guerrillas in several suburbs and ended with U.S. airstrikes on suspected insurgent hide-outs.


“The strikes were conducted throughout the day and were called in by troops in [armed] contact with and observing the enemy moving from house to house,” spokesman Lt. Lyle Gilbert said.


Fallujah resident Abdullah Ahmed said the fighting started after U.S. soldiers brought 700 to 800 men into the city to clear rubble from damage caused by November’s offensive.


“The clashes started as soon as the young men entered the city,” Ahmed said.


“The American troops were surprised and decided to launch military operations.”


The military hoped it had routed the insurgents after the Fallujah invasion, but the latest attacks suggest they may be trickling back into the city.




In another development:


Thirteen people died and 15 were injured today in a suicide attack at an entrance to the Green Zone in Baghdad that houses Iraq’s interim government and foreign embassies, a hospital official said.


The U.S. military confirmed that a car bomb exploded near one of the Green Zone gates, but provided no further details. Reuters, citing U.S. military sources, reported that no one from the U.S.-led forces was wounded or killed in the attack.


The blast occurred when a vehicle that had been waiting in line to enter the zone at its western Harthiyah gate exploded as it drove up to the checkpoint, Iraqi police said. Fifteen other cars were destroyed in the blast.