TUZ KHORMATO, Iraq -- A suicide truck bomber blasted a Shiite town north of Baghdad on Saturday, killing more than 100 people, police said, in a sign Sunni insurgents are pulling away from a U.S. offensive around the capital to attack where security is thinner.
The marketplace devastation underlined a hard reality in Iraq: There are not enough forces to protect everywhere. U.S. troops, already increased by 28,000 this year, are focused on bringing calm to Baghdad, while the Iraqi military and police remain overstretched and undertrained.
The top U.S. commander in Iraq, Gen. David Petraeus, said he expected Sunni extremists to try to "pull off a variety of sensational attacks and grab the headlines to create a 'mini-Tet."'
He was referring to the 1968 Viet Cong and North Vietnamese Tet offensive that undermined public support for the Vietnam War in the United States.
The U.S. military on Saturday also reported that eight American service members were killed in fighting in Baghdad and western Anbar province over two days, reflecting the increased U.S. casualties that have come with the new offensives. A British soldier was killed in fighting with Shiite militias overnight in the southern city of Basra.
In Saturday's attack -- among the deadliest this year in Iraq -- the truck detonation ripped through the market in the farming town of Armili at around 8:30 am, as crowds had gathered for morning shopping.
It demolished several dozen old mud-brick homes and shops, burying dozens of people under the rubble, and set cars on fire, survivors said.
Roadside bombings killed five U.S. soldiers in Baghdad on Friday and another on Thursday, the U.S. military said in its latest statements on U.S. casualties. Two Marines were killed in fighting Friday in western Anbar province, it said.
In the far south of Iraq, British troops came under heavy attack by militants in Basra, killing one soldier and wounding three, the British military said Saturday.
Britain has withdrawn hundreds of troops from Iraq, leaving a force of around 5,500 based mainly on the fringes of Basra, Iraq's second-largest city, 340 miles southeast of Baghdad. British bases come under frequent mortar attacks from Shiite militias. The U.S. currently has about 155,000 troops in Iraq.