BAGHDAD, Iraq -- Seven U.S. Marines were killed in two separate attacks west of Baghdad, where American forces are trying to seal a major border infiltration route for foreign fighters, the military said Tuesday. The deaths pushed the U.S. military death toll in Iraq past 1,800.
One of the Marines died Monday in a suicide car bombing in Hit, 85 miles northwest of Baghdad. The other six were killed Monday in Haditha, 50 miles from Hit -- all of them attached to the same suburban Cleveland unit.
"Every single one of them is a hero," said Lt. Col. Kevin Rush of the Headquarters and Service Co. 3rd Battalion, 25th Marines based in Brook Park, Ohio.
At least 25 American service members have been killed in Iraq in the past 10 days -- all but two in combat. The Iraqi Defense Ministry said that since the beginning of April, more than 2,700 Iraqis -- about half of them civilians -- had been killed in insurgency-related incidents.
Fighting has intensified in recent weeks in Haditha, Hit and other dusty towns along the Euphrates River northwest of Baghdad as American forces step up efforts to seal off the approaches to the Syrian border and prevent foreign fighters from entering the country.
The Marines launched a series of operations in the region in May and June in hopes of pacifying the area so that Iraqi military and civilian forces could assume effective control. But the insurgents have proven resilient.