(Reuters) - Five U.S. service members were killed in a rocket attack in Iraq on Monday in the worst single toll for American troops in the country in at least two years, the U.S. military and Iraqi security officials said.
The attack showed Iraq's still precarious security situation despite a fall in violence from past levels as U.S. troops prepare to withdraw from the country, more than eight years after the invasion that toppled former dictator Saddam Hussein.
A U.S. statement gave no details of how the U.S. personnel were killed in central Iraq. But a senior Iraqi security official said the Americans were killed when militants fired rockets into a joint base in Baghdad's Baladiyat district.
"This morning, the American base at Loyalty Camp came under rocket attack. There was a lot of smoke inside and the Americans died in that attack in the Baladiyat area," the security official, who asked not to be named, told Reuters.
Loyalty Forward Operating Base, on the former site of Saddam's internal security directorate, is next to Sadr City, the stronghold of anti-U.S. Shi'ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr.
Two suspected militants involved in the attack were killed when a rocket exploded prematurely on the truck they were using as a launch platform, an interior ministry source said.
U.S. forces officially ended combat operations in Iraq last August ahead of a scheduled U.S. troop withdrawal at the end of this year. American troops are now mainly involved in a support and training role, and helping Iraqi security forces in counter-terrorism operations.
U.S. fatalities in Iraq since last year have become more sporadic. Two U.S. soldiers were killed in May.More