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Three coalition forces die during a rocket attack on their base south of Baghdad
Iraqis carry the coffin of sheik Abid al-Haidari, an official of the office of radical Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr during his funeral in Basra, Iraq, Wednesday, March 12, 2008. al-Haidari was killed earlier Wednesday by unknown gunmen in a drive-by shooting in Basra. - photo by Associated Press
    BAGHDAD — Three soldiers were killed in a rocket attack on their combat outpost south of Baghdad on Wednesday, the military announced, bringing to 12 the number of military personnel who have been killed in Iraq over the past three days.
    Navy Lt. Patrick Evans, a military spokesman, told The Associated Press that the three soldiers were killed on Combat Outpost Adder near Nasiriyah, about 200 miles southeast of Baghdad.
    Evans did not know the nationalities of the soldiers who were killed.
    Not including the latest three, at least 3,984 members of the U.S. military have died since the beginning of the Iraq war in March 2003, according to an AP count. The figure includes eight military civilians.
    An American soldier died Tuesday after his patrol was hit by a roadside bomb near Diwaniyah, 80 miles south of Baghdad.
    Eight soldiers were killed in a pair of bomb attacks on Monday, the heaviest single day of U.S. casualties since September.
    Three U.S. soldiers were killed Monday in a roadside bombing in Diyala, a violent province where al-Qaida in Iraq has been active.
    The five other U.S. soldiers were killed while on foot patrol in central Baghdad. A suicide bomber approached them and detonated his explosives vest. Three American troops and an Iraqi interpreter were wounded. Iraqi police said two civilians also were killed in the attack.
    Meanwhile, a group of Iraqi tribal leaders, former politicians and intellectuals appealed Wednesday to the United Nations to take control of Iraq in a move they say would help U.S. troops leave the beleaguered country.
    Both the U.S. administration and the Baghdad government are unlikely to endorse the request, which was addressed to U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and delivered to the Cairo offices of the organization.
    ‘‘We believe that the only opportunity left for Iraq to be saved from a dark, but not inevitable future, is to engage the international community represented by the United Nations,’’ the letter said. ‘‘Such a step will allow the American troops to leave and the occupation to be brought to its end.’’
    The group’s coordinators include Adeeb al-Jadir, Ahmed Al-Haboubi and Nouri Abdel Razak Hussein, politicians overthrown in 1968 when Saddam Hussein’s Baath party came to power and long part of the liberal anti-regime opposition prior to the U.S.-led invasion in 2003.
    The U.N. dramatically curtailed its operations in Iraq after an August 2003 suicide attack killed its representative and scores of others. The United States has been pushing for an expanded U.N. role in Iraq but that did not include supervising the country.
    The Iraqi group said the world body should supervise a new security plan to restore order during a transitional period and prepare for new elections of a government to replace Nouri al-Maliki’s troubled cabinet.
    Representatives for the campaign will travel to the U.N. headquarters in New York to seek support from key members, said al-Haboubi, a former government minister.
    ‘‘We are also ready to discuss our proposals with U.S. officials,’’ he said.
    The men said the petition was signed by dozens of Iraqi dignitaries and they had scores of supporters in Iraq who preferred to rename anonymous for know to avoid harassment.
    Meanwhile, the Iraqi government on Wednesday announced a committee formed to explore ways citizens could sue U.S. forces involved in ‘‘unjustified killings,’’ according to the prime minister’s office.
    The U.S. military did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
    Also Wednesday, the U.S. military acknowledged that a roadside bomb targeting a passing U.S. convoy had struck near a passenger bus, a day after initially claiming no one died in the attack.
    U.S. military spokesman Maj. Gen. Kevin Bergner could not confirm the number of casualties, but said no U.S. forces were involved in any gunfire that followed.
    ‘‘We are still working with Iraqi security forces, and those now investigating the detailed circumstances of that attack, to learn whatever else we can,’’ Bergner said.
    Dr. Hadi Badr al-Riyahi, head of the Nasiriyah provincial health directorate, confirmed that the attack on the bus traveling from Najaf to Basra killed 16 civilians and wounded 20 about 50 miles south of Nasiriyah.
    At the time of the attack, a local policeman and the assistant bus driver also said 16 people were killed on the bus, which was riddled with holes that appeared to be caused by shrapnel or bullets.
    On Tuesday, violence reportedly killed a total of at least 42 people across Iraq. The sudden spike comes in the wake of a 60 percent drop in attacks across the country since June, according to U.S. military figures.
    According to an AP count, at the height of unrest from November 2006 to August 2007, on average approximately 65 Iraqis died each day as a result of violence. As conditions improved, the daily death toll steadily declined. It reached its lowest point in more than two years on January 2008, when on average 20 Iraqis died each day.
    Those numbers have since jumped. In February, approximately 26 Iraqis died each day as a result of violence, and so far in March, that number is up to 39 daily. These figures reflect the months in which people were found, and not necessarily — in the case of mass graves — the months in which they were killed.
    Associated Press Writer Salah Nasrawi in Cairo, Egypt contributed to this report.

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