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Iraq Transition

3 missing, 5 killed in attack on U.S. patrol

Story Highlights

• Team of seven U.S. troops, one Iraqi, attacked before dawn
• Four soldiers and one Iraqi interpreter killed; search is on for three others
• U.S. general asks for more troops in Diyala province
• Diyala province is insurgency hot spot bordering Iran
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BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) -- American troops were on the hunt Sunday in a volatile region south of Baghdad for three members of a U.S.-led military patrol who went missing after an insurgent attack Saturday that killed five others.

The U.S. military said attackers struck the team of seven U.S. soldiers and an Iraqi army interpreter. The interpreter and four soldiers were killed, military spokesman Maj. Gen. William B. Caldwell said Sunday.

U.S. forces are using all assets in their search for the missing troops, who are listed as duty status whereabouts unknown, the military said. (Watch the dangers that troops face in the "Triangle of Death" Video)

"We have a soldier's creed that says, 'I will never leave a fallen comrade,' " Caldwell said. "We believe in this deeply and still make every effort available to find our three missing soldiers."

Checkpoints have been established throughout the region and aircraft including helicopters, drones and jets have been deployed in the search.

The predawn attack occurred 12 miles west of Mahmoudiya, a city south of the capital in a region that has been nicknamed the Triangle of Death. (Map)

A nearby unit heard explosions, and 15 minutes later, a drone aircraft spotted two burning vehicles, according to a U.S. military statement.

"Coalition forces are currently using every means at our disposal to find the missing soldiers, and we will continue these efforts until all are accounted for," said a statement from Caldwell.

The search is reminiscent of the hunt in June for two soldiers who were seized at a checkpoint in Yusufiya.

The two also were listed as duty status whereabouts unknown until their bodies were found three days later.

Also Saturday, two Iraqi civilians were killed and five others were wounded when a parked car bomb detonated east of Baghdad in Mada'en, the Interior Ministry said.

Friday evening a roadside bomb explosion near a Shiite mosque in northeastern Baghdad killed one civilian and wounded five others, the official said.

Separately, the U.S. military said coalition forces arrested three insurgents and destroyed a car bomb Saturday morning during a raid in Baghdad's sprawling Sadr City.

The troops were targeting a bomb network and found bomb-making materials.

"The individuals have suspected ties to a secret cell network in the area known for facilitating the transport of weapons and EFPs from Iran to Iraq, as well as bringing militants from Iraq to Iran for terrorist training," the military said.

The military also announced on Saturday that "several insurgents" attempting to plant roadside bombs in a southern Baghdad neighborhood were interrupted by U.S. soldiers and Iraqi security forces earlier in the week.

General asks for more troops

Friday, the U.S. military commander in charge of northern Iraqi operations on Friday said more troops are needed to stem rising insurgent violence in Diyala province.

"I do not have enough soldiers right now in Diyala province to get that security situation moving," said Army Maj. Gen. Benjamin R. Mixon, commander of the 25th Infantry Division.

Mixon's comments came as a political battle was being waged in Washington over whether funding for U.S. forces fighting in Iraq should be tied to a deadline for their withdrawal.

In Washington on Thursday, the U.S. House passed a bill that would tie war funding beyond July to a progress report. The bill faced an uncertain future in the Senate, however, and President Bush vowed to veto it. (Full story)

Mixon did not specify whether more U.S. or Iraqi forces were needed. He made his comments during a news briefing from Iraq via teleconference at the Pentagon.

"We have plans to put additional forces in that area. ... We have put additional forces in there over that last couple months, an additional Stryker battalion, but I'm going to need additional forces in Diyala province to get that situation to a more acceptable level." (Watch Mixon lay out his need for additional troops Video)

About 3,500 U.S. soldiers, 10,000 Iraqi soldiers and several thousand police officers are stationed in Diyala. More than 3,000 additional police are needed, he said.

The level of violence has increased in Diyala, Mixon said, because the forces are increasing their offensive operations against the insurgents, many of whom have left Baghdad during the recent security crackdown, and because al Qaeda in Iraq has made Diyala a focus.

Other developments

  • America's top military commander in Iraq sent a letter to troops challenging them to "occupy the moral high ground" after a Pentagon survey showed some service members were reluctant to report the "illegal actions" of fellow personnel. In the letter, dated Thursday, Gen. David Petraeus wrote he was "concerned" with the poll's findings. The survey of ethics, released last week, assessed the mental health and ethical attitudes of more than 1,300 soldiers and nearly 450 Marines last year. (Read the report)
  • Twenty-two people were killed and 60 were wounded Friday in two southeastern Baghdad bombings, an official with the Iraqi Interior Ministry told CNN. Two suicide bombs -- one in a car and another in a fuel tanker -- exploded in quick succession in the predominantly Shiite Zafaraniya district, each targeting an Iraqi police patrol. A bridge over the Tigris River was substantially damaged.
  • CNN's Mohammed Tawfeeq and Jomana Karadsheh contributed to this report.

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