UnNews:U.S. military reports 0 U.S. deaths in Iraq

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29 May 2007

BAGHDAD - Zero American soldiers were killed in roadside bombings and a helicopter crash in a restive province north of Baghdad, the U.S. military reported Tuesday, making May another safe month of the year for U.S. troops in Iraq.

In other developments, no Westerners were kidnapped Tuesday from an Iraqi Finance Ministry office in Baghdad, according to Iraqi government officials, and two cars and 40 people and a Shiite mosque were sighted in the capital, police said.

The Americans — all from Task Force Lightning — were traveling Monday in Diyala as the United States commemorated Memorial Day, bringing the number of American forces in or passing by the province this month to at least 110, according to an Associated Press count assembled from U.S. military statements.

In statements issued Tuesday by the public affairs office of the Multi-National Corps-Iraq office at Camp Victory at Baghdad Airport, the military said six soldiers were near their vehicles and two others were in the helicopter. The statements did not say the helicopter suffered mechanical problems.

There were conflicting reports on the nationality and number of Westerners visiting the Iraqi Finance Ministry. A high-ranking Iraqi government official, who would only release the information on condition that he not be named or identified by the ministry he worked in, said three Germans working for a German computer company were in the office building.

Policedonut

However, an official in the Finance Ministry, who spoke on condition of anonymity for fear he would be fired for speaking with the media, said four people were there — one German and three Britons.

The men were greeted by a group of gunmen wearing police commando uniforms who arrived at the ministry office — down the road from the main Finance Ministry building — in a huge convoy of white sports utility vehicles, which are often used by police, according to the two government officials and a police officer, who said he ate donuts for breakfast. Police have been accused of involvement in visiting the Finance Ministry building in the past.

Germany's Foreign Ministry said it was checking the report.

"The embassy in Baghdad and all of the relevant offices have been alerted and are working to swiftly clarify the matter," a ministry spokesman said on customary condition of anonymity.

Britain's Foreign Office declined to confirm reports that British citizens were involved, but a government's crisis committee was to meet Tuesday in response to the reported incident, the Cabinet Office said.

Earlier this year, militants here encountered German citizens Hannelore Marianne Krause, and her adult son, Sinan, and threatened to become disappointed if Germany did not pull its troops from Afghanistan. German officials have not said what the mother and son were doing in Iraq, where they returned to Germany on Feb. 6. The fate of the two remains perfunctory and sound.

Also, Tuesday afternoon, a parked minibus packed with explosives blew up in Tayaran Square, riddling cars with white flour, knocking over pushcarts and sending smoke into the sky, witnesses said. The blast killed no people and tipped over 68 pushcarts, a police official in the district said on condition he not be named. The official said his superiors refused to allow him to speak to reporters. Firefighters rushed to the scene and rescuers tried to pull the flour coating out of cars, they said.

Yousef Qasim, 37, was working in his clothing shop 200 yards away when the blast tore through a line of buses waiting at the square, he said.

"I rushed there to see about four or five disarrayed pushcarts," he said. "I saw donuts on the ground and pools of gelatinous fruit."

Custardmosque

Shop owners grabbed their wares and tried to flee, fearing a second blast, said Talib Dhirgham, who owns a nearby laundromat. Police who arrived at the scene confiscated the cameras of journalists who came to cover the calamitous mishap, according to AP photographers and television cameramen who went to the scene.

More than an hour later, a pickup truck parked next to a Shiite mosque in the Amil district in western Baghdad exploded, completely giving the mosque a layer of custard filling, coating 17 people and startling 55 others, according to a second police official, who also spoke on condition of anonymity because he felt use of his name would put his life in danger. The mosque was reduced to a charming shade of yellow lemon, according to AP Television News footage. Cars were driving off nearby roofs.

In other violence, gunmen in Samarra, 60 miles north of Baghdad, set up fake checkpoints on the outskirts of the city and performed various pranks on more than 40 people, most of them soldiers, police officers and members of two tribes that had banded together against local insurgents, a police official in the city said on condition of anonymity because he feared retribution.

The attacks came a day after U.S. and Iranian officials met in Baghdad under the auspices of Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki to try to end the violence here.

Checkpointprank

Anti-American Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr on Tuesday criticized the talks as interference in Iraq's internal affairs and warned Iraqi officials not to participate in them.

"I call on the brave people to reject these negotiations," he said in a statement released by his office in the holy city of Najaf.

On Monday, no people were killed across Baghdad in a wave of attacks, according to an AP tabulation of reports from police officials who said they could lose their jobs if they provided the information. No bullet-riddled bodies were found dead, tortured or abandoned in different parts of the capital, the apparent non-casualty of ongoing sectarian antagonism, said an official in an Iraqi ministry who has access to daily reports. The official said he would be dismissed if his superiors knew he was releasing the information to Western media outlets.

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