RYAN LENZ, AP, March 12, 2008
BAGHDAD - Three U.S. soldiers were killed in a rocket attack in southern Iraq on Wednesday, bringing to 12 the number of Americans who have been killed in Iraq over the past three days.
With the overall U.S. military death toll in Iraq nearing 4,000, the latest killings mark a significant rise in deadly attacks against Americans.
At least 3,987 members of the U.S. military have died since the beginning of the Iraq war in March 2003, according to an AP count. The figure includes eight military civilians.
Navy Lt. Patrick Evans, a military spokesman, told The Associated Press that three soldiers were killed Wednesday in a rocket attack on Combat Outpost Adder near Nasiriyah, about 200 miles southeast of Baghdad. Two other soldiers were wounded.
The attack came a day after an American soldier died when a roadside bomb hit his patrol near Diwaniyah, 80 miles south of Baghdad.
Eight soldiers were killed in a pair of bomb attacks on Monday, the heaviest single day of U.S. casualties since September.
Three of those soldiers died in a roadside bombing in Diyala, a violent province where al-Qaida in Iraq has been active.
The five others were killed while on foot patrol in central Baghdad. A suicide bomber approached them and detonated his explosives vest. The Islamic State of Iraq, a Sunni militant group, issued a statement Wednesday claiming responsibility for the soldiers' deaths. Three Americans and an Iraqi interpreter were wounded.
In the United States, a poll showed Wednesday that fewer people know how many U.S. troops have died in the war.
Only 28 percent correctly said that about 4,000 Americans have died, according to a survey by the nonpartisan Pew Research Center.
That's down from last August, when 54 percent gave the accurate casualty figure, which was about 3,500 dead at the time. In previous Pew surveys dating to 2004, about half have correctly given the rough figure for the approximate number of deaths at the time.
In the new poll, roughly a third said about 3,000 U.S. troops have died while about one in 10 said 2,000 deaths. About a quarter put the figure close to 5,000.
Exit polls of voters in presidential primaries and many national surveys have shown the economy has displaced the war in recent weeks as the public's choice as the nation's top problem.
Iraq was the most avidly followed news story for most of the first half of 2007, but it has not been the most closely watched story in any week since mid-October, according to a Pew survey of people's interest in the news. The portion of news stories on the war has dropped in recent months as well, according to a study by the Project for Excellence in Journalism, a nonpartisan group that evaluates news coverage.
The Pew poll was conducted from Feb. 28-March 2 and involved telephone interviews with 1,003 adults. The margin of sampling error was plus or minus 3.5 percentage points.