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Holmes: U.S. death toll in Iraq passes milestone

CNN's Michael Holmes
CNN's Michael Holmes

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BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) -- Three U.S. soldiers and two members of the Iraqi Civil Defense Corps were killed Saturday when a roadside bomb detonated north of Baghdad, according to the military.

CNN anchor Fredricka Whitfield spoke Saturday with correspondent Michael Holmes about the attack, which raised the number of U.S. soldiers killed in Iraq to 501.

HOLMES: Ironically, these troops were part of a patrol that was out in a rural area but on a busy road looking for what the military calls improvised explosive devices -- to you and me that's roadside bombs. They were looking for such devices when one went off, and it was a big one.

It blew the turret off an armored Bradley Fighting Vehicle and flipped it on its side and set it ablaze. This is a 26-ton vehicle, so you can imagine what sort of force was behind the blast.

Among the casualties, three soldiers from the U.S. 4th Infantry Division killed outright. Two Iraqi Civil Defense Corps members were also killed. Two other soldiers were wounded in that Bradley. They were brought to Baghdad and are in the hospital here in stable condition.

We did speak to Lt. Col. Richard French, up in the area, who described the attack as, in his words, "motivated by pure murder."

So, yes, that threshold [has been] crossed -- since the war began March 20, 500 U.S. troops killed. [The casualties in Saturday's blast and the announcement later of a U.S. soldier's death Friday in "nonhostile" action raised the toll to 501.]

WHITFIELD: I understand there is some suspicion this roadside bomb went off via detonation. It seemed to intentionally take place as the soldiers went by.

HOLMES: Many of these roadside bombs are set off by remote control, not necessarily even wired. They are using things like car alarm transmitters to set off some of these bombs these days, and they can be set to anything, an old gas canister, even dead animals used to hide the bomb.

This one was extremely large for what we normally see. To blow a Bradley off its tracks and pop the turret the way it did, it was a big, big bomb.

Three people were taken into custody after this explosion. The three men were picked up in a truck, which the U.S. military says was carrying materials used in the manufacture of roadside bombs just like this one.

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