The soldier, who was part of the Army’s Third Infantry Division, was travelling in a vehicle convoy in the city of Fallujah when an “improvised explosive device” was detonated and his vehicle bore the brunt of the impact, according to U.S. Central Command. No other soldiers were injured in the attack.
The soldier’s death brought the total number of U.S. soldiers killed in combat since the start of the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq to 148, surpassing the number of deaths in the 1991 Gulf War. Thirty-four have died since President Bush declared an end to major combat in the Iraq war on May 1.
In Baghdad, U.S. Army engineers on patrol discovered what they described as a large bomb in a burlap bag on a highway near the airport. It was the same location where a military vehicle came under fire on Monday, killing a soldier and wounding four.
The bomb, inside a white burlap sack, had a 100-foot blast radius, Lt. Robertrel Sachi told the Associated Press.
Earlier in the week, the newly installed chief of U.S. armed forces in the region, General John Abizaid, said the tactics being used amounted to guerrilla warfare.
“I believe there’s mid- level Baathist, Iraqi intelligence service people, Special Security Organization people, Special Republican Guard people that have organized at the regional level in cellular structure and are conducting what I would describe as a classical guerrilla-type campaign against us,” Abizaid said in a Wednesday press briefing.
Abiziad also said that while he felt that the current number of forces in Iraq was “about right” he wouldn’t hesitate to ask the Pentagon for more if the situation warranted.
“If the situation gets worse, I won’t hesitate to ask for more,” Abizaid said. “The most important thing in all of this is causing the level of violence to go down so that governance can move forward.”
In the southern town of Najaf, a powerful Shiite Muslim cleric said the new U.S.-backed Iraqi Governing Council did not represent Iraqis, in a sharp criticism to the Bush administration’s efforts to launch a new democratic political process in postwar Iraq.
Thousands of Shiites converged on the holy city to hear Sheikh Muqtada al-Sadr call for an Islamic army and a new constitution.
“We condemn the Governing Council headed by the United States,” Sadr said during a sermon, according to Reuters.
Meanwhile, Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz was in Baghdad Friday as part of an unannounced visit to Iraq. A U.S. military spokeswoman told news services she had no information on his schedule and could not say what he would be doing.
According to media reports, Wolfowitz has been meeting with both U.S. and British military officials and visiting key sites around the country.
Wolfowitz, considered to be a leading architect of the Iraq war plan, was quoted in The Los Angeles Times Friday as saying that no amount of advance U.S. planning could have prepared for the total collapse of law and order in postwar Iraq.
“The so-called forces of law and order (in Baghdad) just kind of collapsed. There is not a single plan that would have dealt with that,” Wolfowitz was quoted as telling the newspaper.
“This is a country that was ruled by a gang of terrorist criminals and they’re still around. They’re threatening Iraqis and killing Americans,” he said.
But he also added: “I would not for a moment go back and say, ‘Gee we should have gone slower so we could have had more forces built up behind us to control areas that we went past.”