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Five U.S. troops killed in Iraq attacks

Offensives launched against insurgents in western province

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BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) -- Four U.S. soldiers and a Marine have been killed in attacks in Iraq, military officials said Tuesday.

The deaths were announced on the same day as U.S.-led forces launched offensives in the western province of Anbar, where four of the troops died.

Three soldiers from the 2nd Regimental Combat Team, 2nd Marine Division, II Marine Expeditionary Force (Forward) died from injuries sustained in a blast Monday, officials said.

All three were involved in combat operations near the Anbar city of Haqlaniya, a statement said, but it was unclear whether the same roadside bomb killed all three.

Separately, a U.S. Marine was killed in action Monday by a roadside bomb in the Anbar city of Karabila, the military said. The Marine was assigned to the same combat team as the soldiers and was involved in Operation Iron Fist. (Watch: Marines battle insurgents in Karabila. [Viewer discretion advised] -- 2:28)

A U.S. soldier with the Army's 56th Brigade Combat Team died Monday from injuries sustained from a gunshot wound near Taqaddum in central Iraq, a military statement said. The incident is under investigation.

Since the beginning of the Iraq war, 1,944 U.S. troops have died.

Anbar offensives

The U.S. military and Iraqi security forces launched two offensives Tuesday against insurgents in western Anbar province, military statements said.

Operation River Gate includes about 2,500 U.S. troops and 400 to 500 Iraqi security force soldiers.

Forces focused on the area around Haditha, about 75 miles (120 kilometers) west of Baghdad, but also will operate in the neighboring cities of Haqlaniya and Darwana.

"The operation's goal is to deny al Qaeda in Iraq the ability to operate in the three Euphrates River Valley cities and to free the local citizens from the insurgents' campaign of murder and intimidation of innocent women, children and men," a U.S. military statement said.

Also launched Tuesday was Operation Mountaineers -- described by the military as a "cordon and search operation" in Ramadi's southern district of Tammin.

A military statement said 500 U.S. troops and 400 Iraqi security forces were taking part in the operation to "disrupt insurgents in southern Ramadi who are transporting weapons and munitions into the city."

The two offensives follow Operation Iron Fist, launched Saturday by the U.S. military in Anbar province with about 1,000 American troops.

The three operations in Anbar come ahead of the October 15 referendum on the Iraqi constitution as violence continues to rock the country.

Election questions

Shiite and Kurdish lawmakers quietly passed a rules change that would make it almost impossible to vote down the draft constitution in this month's referendum, a source close to the Iraqi government told CNN.

Parliament voted last week to change how that law would be interpreted. The new rule would require opponents to get two-thirds of registered voters to vote no, instead of two-thirds of ballots cast, the source said.

Fewer than 60 percent of registered Iraqis voted in the January elections for the National Assembly.

Critics said the parliament's actions will undermine the credibility of the referendum. Leaders of the Sunni minority are threatening to boycott the vote.

The United Nations expects the National Assembly to review the rules after the world body criticized the recent move, Reuters reported.

"We have expressed our position to the National Assembly and to the leadership of the government and told them that the decision that was taken was not acceptable and would not meet international standards," Jose Aranaz, a legal adviser to the U.N. electoral team in Iraq, told Reuters.

Other developments

  • A car bomb exploded Tuesday near one of the main entrances to Baghdad's Green Zone, killing two Iraqi soldiers and a civilian, police said. Seven people were wounded -- four Iraqi soldiers, two policemen and one civilian. (Watch: Car bomb rocks Baghdad -- 2:23)
  • South of the capital, four Iraqi police commandos were killed and 12 others wounded Tuesday in fighting in Yusufiya, a Baghdad emergency police official said.
  • Iraq's border security force has arrested a British civilian and nine Iraqis, a British military spokesman in Basra said Tuesday. The official could not confirm the time, location or circumstances of the arrest. (Full story)
  • CNN's Kevin Flower and Mohammed Tawfeeq contributed to this report.

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