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Officials: Roadside bomb kills seven troops

U.S. commander says Iraq's insurgents weaker

The blast flipped a Bradley Fighting Vehicle, like the one seen here, into a ditch.
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BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) -- A roadside bomb struck a U.S. armored personnel carrier Thursday in northwestern Baghdad, killing all seven American soldiers inside, U.S. military officials told CNN.

The soldiers were part of Task Force Baghdad, composed largely of troops from the Army's 1st Cavalry Division. The attack occurred at about 6 p.m. (10 a.m. ET), according to a statement from the U.S. military in Baghdad.

The blast flipped the 50,000-plus-pound Bradley Fighting Vehicle upside down and into a ditch, said Lt. Col. James Hutton, a 1st Cavalry spokesman. Rescue efforts were hampered by flames and secondary explosions, he said.

The soldiers' identities were not immediately released.

Earlier in the day, the commander of U.S. ground forces in Iraq called recent deadly attacks on Iraqi police and political figures "desperate efforts" at intimidation by insurgents hoping to stall the January 30 elections.

Despite those attacks, Lt. Gen. Thomas F. Metz maintained the enemy is weaker and does not enjoy support among Iraqis.

"It is not a popular insurgency," Metz said. "The tools that they are using -- murder, torture, kidnapping indiscriminately children [and] women -- those are tools of someone who is not popularly supported."

Attacks have claimed the lives of Baghdad's provincial governor, the security chief for Iraq's Independent Election Commission in Diyala province, the deputy director for the Iraqi Islamic Party in the northern city of Mosul, and scores of Iraqi police and civilians.

Interim Prime Minister Ayad Allawi said Wednesday that his government is committed to holding the elections on time.

Iraqi voters are expected to choose a 275-member transitional national assembly. That body will put together a permanent constitution that will go before voters in a referendum. If the law is approved, the plan calls for elections for a permanent government.

While acknowledging that "we have seen an ever increasing focus of the enemy on Iraqi security forces and an intimidation of or murder of senior leaders," Metz said most of the strikes in the past seven days have targeted U.S.-led coalition forces.

There have been an average of 70 attacks each day, and nearly 50 are against the coalition, he said.

Metz cautioned not to rely too much on the figures since a failed attack on a U.S. military convoy is counted equally with a suicide car bombing that kills scores of people.

He added that the insurgents' "intimidation campaign" is the "last tool in the enemy's kit bag" and that many of their unsuccessful attacks go unreported.

Metz said four of Iraq's 18 provinces -- Anbar, Nineveh, parts of Baghdad province and Salahaddin -- are not ready for elections but "will be in much better shape in three weeks."

He said the American-led multinational forces "are concentrating efforts to put together the security systems and procedures and the numbers of soldiers, Iraqi and coalition, to successfully hold those elections."

Other developments

  • Iraqi police said they found the bodies of three Jordanian truck drivers Thursday on the side of the Baghdad-Amman highway, about 30 miles (45 kilometers) west of Ramadi. They were all shot in the head, police said. A note found with the bodies said, "Here are those who betrayed their religion." A police official in Ramadi said passports and identification papers confirmed the men were Jordanian.
  • An American Marine was killed in action Thursday while conducting "security and stability operations" in Anbar province, west of Baghdad, the U.S. military said. With the death, 1,342 U.S. forces have been killed in the Iraq war.
  • CNN Pentagon correspondent Jamie McIntyre, and Mohammad Tawfeeq, contributed to this report.

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