BAGHDAD — A suicide car bomber struck a U.S. patrol in northern Iraq on Monday, killing four American soldiers and an Iraqi interpreter in the deadliest single attack against U.S. forces in nine months.
The blast occurred as U.S. vehicles were passing near an Iraqi police checkpoint in Mosul, Iraq's third-largest city and the last major urban battleground in the war against al-Qaida and other Sunni insurgents.
American casualties have fallen to some of the lowest levels of the war since thousands of Sunnis abandoned the insurgency and U.S. and Iraqi forces routed Shiite militias in Baghdad and Basra last spring. Only five of the 16 U.S. service members who died in Iraq last month were killed in action.
However, fighting continues in Mosul and elsewhere in northern Iraq — a conflict that U.S. officials say is driven in part by ethnic rivalries between Sunni Arabs and Kurds. Many Sunni extremists are believed to have fled north after being driven from longtime strongholds in Baghdad and central Iraq.
A U.S. statement said three U.S. soldiers were killed at the scene of Monday's attack. A fourth soldier and the interpreter died of wounds at a military hospital, the United States said.
It was the deadliest single attack against U.S. troops since May 2, 2008, when four Marines were killed in a roadside bombing in Anbar province, a former insurgent stronghold west of Baghdad. Four U.S. soldiers were killed Jan. 26 when two helicopters collided in the air near the northern city of Kirkuk, but U.S. officials said the crash did not appear to be a result of hostile fire.
At least 4,243 U.S. military members have died since the Iraq war began in March 2003, according to an Associated Press count.