US military: 2 US soldiers killed in southern Iraq
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Jun 14, 6:47 AM (ET)

BAGHDAD (AP) - The U.S. military says two American soldiers have been killed while conducting operations in southern Iraq.

Tuesday's statement didn't give details on the operations, saying only the two were killed Monday. They were not identified pending notification of next of kin.

The new deaths bring to 4,462 the number of American service members who have died in Iraq since the war began in 2003, according to an Associated Press count.

And it brings to eight the number of U.S. troops killed in June so far.

Shiite Muslim militias have stepped up attacks on U.S. forces with the approach of the year-end withdrawal of all American troops.

THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. Check back soon for further information. AP's earlier story is below.

BAGHDAD (AP) - Attackers set off two car bombs next to a government compound Tuesday, then opened fire and took an unknown number of hostages, Iraqi officials said. Eight people were killed in the assault.

There were conflicting reports about whether the situation had been brought under control in Baqouba, which was once an al-Qaida in Iraq stronghold. There was no immediate claim of responsibility but the complex attack bore the hallmarks of the insurgent group.

Gunmen first set off two car bombs near a gate protecting the government compound in Baqouba, 35 miles (60 kilometers) northeast of Baghdad, said Samira al-Shibli, a spokeswoman for the Diyala provincial council. The compound houses buildings including the provincial council headquarters and the governor's office.

Two officials with the Diyala Operations Command said at least some of the gunmen made their way into the compound and one of the officials said the gunmen took hostages. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to the media.

An Iraqi army officer, Col. Sabah al-Kuzi, said eight people died in the assault but he did not know how many of the attackers were among the dead.

One of the officials at the Diyala Operations Command said there were five gunmen: three were killed, one wounded and authorities were still searching for the fifth.

However, a member of the Diyala provincial council said 10 gunmen had stormed into the compound.

"I am trying to call my colleagues and employees in the building but all their mobiles are switched off," Nasreen Bahjat said. "The situation now is tense."

Another council member, Zainab al-Sufi, described a chaotic situation where the assailants armed with machine guns randomly opened fire after the bombs went off. They clashed with security forces and killing some civilians before storming into the compound, al-Sufi said.

Abdullah Hassan, a provincial council member, said the gunmen may have intended to target a council meeting scheduled for Tuesday morning. But the meeting was delayed and no council members were there when the attack happened.

"The aim of such attack is to create more chaos and to hinder any attempts to push the country forward," he said.

In March, gunmen wearing military uniforms over explosives belts charged into a government building in Saddam Hussein's hometown of Tikrit in an attack that left 56 people dead. The five-hour standoff ended only when the attackers blew themselves up in one of the bloodiest days in Iraq this year.

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Associated Press writers Qassim Abdul-Zahra in Baghdad and Yahya Barzanji in Sulaimaniyah contributed to this report.






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