In Iraq, a U.S. soldier was killed Friday in the mainly Sunni Muslim town of Fallujah, about 55 kilometers west of Baghdad. The soldier died when his military vehicle hit an explosive device.
The U.S. soldier was riding in a military Humvee vehicle with at least three others, when the device exploded underneath the car at a traffic circle just west of downtown Fallujah. The U.S. military believes it was remotely detonated.
The identity of the soldier has not been released, but he was part of the U.S. Army's 2nd Brigade, 3rd Infantry Division. The 2nd Brigade was the first U.S. Army unit to battle its way into Baghdad three months ago.
Fallujah lies within the mainly Sunni Muslim area west and north of Baghdad, where support for Saddam Hussein has traditionally been the strongest.
Tension between American troops and Fallujah residents has been simmering since late April, when protests erupted over the U.S. military presence. Soldiers fired on a boisterous crowd, killing as many as 15 in what they said was self-defense.
Second Brigade spokesman, Staff Sergeant Anthony Joseph, said since then, soldiers here have been attacked numerous times, but in recent weeks, the town has been relatively quiet.
Sergeant Joseph said until today, there was a great deal of optimism that peace could soon be restored in Fallujah, and the soldiers could go home. "It's a sad day," he said. "At this brigade, we're all kind of close to each other and [when] that happens, it strikes home."
On Monday, the 2nd Brigade, as well as the rest of the 3rd Infantry Division, were told that because of the ongoing unrest in Iraq, they would have to stay for a while longer. The soldiers had been expecting to go home next month.
Meanwhile, Fallujah residents tell VOA Friday's attack could be the start of a fresh round of violence. One man, Khalid Fayadh, said he saw what happened to the military vehicle on Friday, and he said he is glad the soldier is dead. He said, "God willing, there will be many more attacks until all Americans are out of Fallujah and out of Iraq."
The coalition says in spite of such attacks, its troops will not leave Iraq until order is restored and a new democratic process is in place.