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Six from Fort Bragg killed in Iraq explosion

Six paratroopers based at Fort Bragg were killed Monday in an improvised bomb blast in Iraq, according to officials with the 82nd Airborne Division.

The deaths were the most that the division has suffered in a single day in Iraq since the war began four years ago, said Spc. Jacqueline Pryor, a division spokeswoman. The soldiers' names were being withheld until their families were notified, she said.

Four soldiers were wounded in the blast.

It was an unusually bloody day for U.S. troops in Iraq. Three more soldiers were killed in a bomb attack in Diyala province northeast of Baghdad, according to U.S. military officials.

The Bragg paratroopers killed were on a morning combat patrol near the city of Samarra, in a Sunni-dominated area about 60 miles north of Baghdad. Some of those who died were in a Humvee when the bomb detonated, and some were on foot, Pryor said.

The six deaths brought the total number of 82nd soldiers killed in Iraq to 80.

The division has played an outsized role in the Iraq war from the beginning. One of its four combat brigades of about 3,300 soldiers is based near Tikrit, just north of Samarra. Another brigade was sent into the Iraqi capital in January -- the first troops in the Bush administration's "surge" to boost security in Baghdad and reportedly involved in a push this week into the Shiite stronghold neighborhood of Sadr City.

Meanwhile, the 82nd has about 6,100 soldiers in Afghanistan, including the 82nd's commanding general and his staff. About 1,000 of them were fighting Tuesday in what The Washington Post described as a major operation in Helmand Province in southern Afghanistan, which had become a haven for insurgents.

So many of the division's soldiers are at war, in fact, that it has canceled its annual All American week celebration just before Memorial Day, something it had to do for the same reason in 2003.

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