Heavy casualties

 

A total of 24 US soldiers also died on Saturday in one of the bloodiest days for the US military in several months.

 

Twelve passengers and crew were killed in the helicopter crash near Baghdad; initial reports had put the figure at 13.

 

A group called Jaish al Mujaihadeen claimed to have shot down the aircraft. The US military has neither confirmed nor denied the claim.

 

Five more US soldiers were killed in the Shia holy city of Karbala in clashes with gunmen. A further five were killed in Anbar province in western Iraq, the military said on Sunday.

The bloodshed comes at a critical time for Iraq and the Bush administration, which has proposed to send about 21,500 more US troops to try to halt the sectarian violence.

 

On Sunday more than 3,000 of the extra US troops arrived in Baghdad.