BAGHDAD, Iraq – Seven American troops were reported killed in roadside bombings Monday, capping one of the bloodiest months for the U.S. military in Iraq and underscoring the continued potency of the Sunni-dominated insurgency despite months of U.S. military operations against insurgent strongholds and apparent progress on the political front.

The deaths came as a massive blast ripped through shops and restaurants in the relatively quiet southern town of Basra, killing at least 20 people on an evening when the streets were crammed with shoppers preparing to celebrate Eid, or festival, marking the end of Ramadan late this week.

Six Americans died in two separate roadside bombings Monday, the military said. Four died when their vehicle was struck by a roadside bomb just south of Baghdad, near Yusufiyah, in the notoriously violent area known as the Triangle of Death. Two more died on patrol outside Balad when their vehicle was struck by a roadside bomb.

The seventh casualty was a Marine killed Sunday in a roadside bombing in Ameriyah in the troubled province of Anbar, where U.S. forces have been waging a war of attrition with insurgents.

The deaths brought to 92 the number of service members killed in October, the highest monthly toll since January and the fourth highest since the war began.

Unlike the other, deadlier months, there was no major offensive or incident to account for the high loss of life – only the relentless toll of the daily roadside bombings that now account for the majority of American casualties.

Improvised explosive devices, as the military calls the homemade bombs laid along the routes taken by U.S. patrols, accounted for 59 percent of all the casualties in October – 55 deaths. Two died in suicide bombings, and 18 died in other forms of hostile fire, such as shootings and mortar attacks, according to statistics provided by the Web site The remainder were non-hostile deaths, including traffic accidents.

By comparison, in January, 31 of the 107 American casualties were caused by a non-hostile helicopter crash and 29 by roadside bombs. In November 2004, 137 troops died, most of them in the major assault on the rebel stronghold of Fallujah. In April 2004, 135 were killed battling the Shiite and Sunni uprisings that signaled the start of widespread, organized armed opposition to the American presence.

U.S. military officials say that not only are IEDs being placed with increased regularity, but they are also more sophisticated and more powerful than the crude bombs being used in the early days of the war, signaling a greater level of expertise by the insurgency.

Officials are also claiming progress against the insurgency and the bomb-making materials they use. In the first three weeks of October, the U.S. military confiscated 1,300 mortars, 1,300 rockets and 2,800 artillery rounds

That’s “a massive amount of munitions that have been taken off the streets,” said military spokesman Maj. Gen. Rick Lynch. “Given the desires of the insurgents, all those munitions would have been made into IEDs and VBIEDs,” or vehicle-borne improvised explosive devices, as the military calls suicide bombs.

Coming less than a week after the death toll in the 2 1/2-year war passed 2,000, the latest deaths serve as a worrying reminder that despite recent indications that Sunnis are embracing the political process, there has been no drop in the level of violence. There are about 90 attacks nationwide per day, up from a 70-a-day average reported early last spring, U.S. officials said last week.

The enthusiastic participation of many members of the embittered Sunni minority in last month’s referendum on a new constitution and signs that Sunni leaders are gearing up to take part in December’s election for a new government have U.S. officials feeling cautiously optimistic that Sunnis are turning away from violence and embracing politics.

But since Sunnis failed to defeat the constitution, the violence has been steadily ratcheting up again. The bombing in Basra, which reportedly targeted a passing police patrol on the crowded al-Jazaar street, coincided with rising tensions in the southern Shiite city.

Altogether, 2,026 members of the American military have died since the war began in March 2003, according to an Associated Press count.

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