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Bomb kills 3 GIs; tensions between U.S., Sunnis rise

BAGHDAD — A roadside bomb killed three American soldiers north of Baghdad on Saturday, pushing the U.S. death toll in the five-year conflict to nearly 4,000.

Also Saturday, Iraqi authorities reported that a U.S. airstrike north of the capital killed six members of a U.S.-backed Sunni group – straining relations with America’s new allies in the fight against al-Qaida.

Two Iraqi civilians also died in the roadside bombing, which occurred as the Americans were patrolling an area northwest of the capital, the U.S. military said in a statement.

Two of the soldiers were killed in the blast and the third died of wounds, the statement said. The soldiers were assigned to Multinational Division-Baghdad, the statement said, but gave no further details.

The latest deaths brought to 3,996 the number of U.S. service members and Pentagon civilians who have died since the war began on March 20, 2003, according to an Associated Press count.

With the war entering its sixth year, President Bush paid tribute Saturday to America’s fallen service members, saying in his weekly radio address that they will “live on in the memory of the nation they helped defend.”

Speaking for the Democrats, however, Sen. Robert Menendez of New Jersey called on Bush to “face the reality” in Iraq and “tell us the truth” about the cost of the conflict as America is struggling with a faltering economy and mounting casualty tolls.

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