Three more Americans die in Iraq

The carnage in Iraq continued unabated Sunday with three U.S. airmen among the 17 dead in violence across the civil war-torn country.

In an apparent effort to prove they can do the job themselves, Iraqi troops launched a battle to oust militias and pacify the capital, a move that observers say is little more than public relations effort with little chance for success.

Underscoring the skepticism of oberservers, Sectarian attacks continued despite the major drive to tame Baghdad. The Iraqi army claimed killing 30 militants late Saturday in a Sunni insurgent stronghold in the center of the city, just to the north of the heavily fortified Green Zone.

Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, speaking only hours earlier at a ceremony marking the 85th anniversary of the Iraqi army, announced his intention to continue a “relentless and open-ended bid to crush militant fighters bedeviling Baghdad.”

Reports The Associated Press:

A car bomb in Baghdad on Sunday killed the three airmen assigned to the 447th Expeditionary Civil Engineer Squadron’s Explosive Ordnance Division, the U.S. military said. A soldier died Saturday after coming under fire in the capital, and another soldier died Friday from combat wounds sustained in Iraq’s volatile western Anbar province.

With the deaths, at least 3,011 members of the U.S. military have died since the beginning of the Iraq war in March 2003, according to an Associated Press count.

Among Sunday’s attacks:

• A barrage of mortars killed four civilians and wounded five others in central Baghdad after a roadside bomb missed an Iraqi police patrol and killed two pedestrians, police said.

• Gunmen drove through a marketplace in southwestern Baghdad, spraying bullets into food and clothing stalls and killing three Sunni Muslim shopkeepers, a police officer said on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the media. Another drive-by shooting targeted four guards for the Iraqi Finance Ministry, killing one of them.

• In Mahaweel, about 35 miles south of Baghdad, gunmen killed a Shiite cleric and his son as they were heading to a nearby Shiite shrine, police said.

• Attackers shot dead a Defense Ministry employee on his way to work south of Baghdad, and a provincial councilman was injured in an assassination attempt in Hillah. Police said a parked car bomb killed a woman and wounded 13 people in an outdoor market in the same city, about 60 miles south of Baghdad.