BAGHDAD — Insurgents thought to be part of an Iranian-backed Shiite militia killed two U.S. National Guard troops Thursday in a rare attack near U.S. Camp Victory close to Baghdad international airport, the U.S. military said Saturday.
Spec. Nation R. Beyers, 24 of Littleton, Colo., and Spec. Nicholas W. Newby, 20, of Coeur d'Alene, Idaho, died of injuries sustained when insurgents attacked their convoy using an improvised explosive device, the Pentagon said.
The attack occurred late Thursday morning, when the two were driving in a Humvee, military officials said.
Maj. Gen. Jeffrey Buchanan, the spokesman for the U.S. military, said the attack occurred on a secondary road leading up to a checkpoint at the Victory Base complex.
Although the U.S. military had not seen a claim of responsibility for the attack, "our assessment was that it was conducted by one of the Iranian-backed militias due to the method of attack ," Buchanan told McClatchy.
Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, on Thursday accused Iran of "very directly supporting extremist Shiite groups, which are killing our troops."
Up to Friday, 41 troops in the U.S.-led coalition have died so far this year, a much faster pace than in 2010, when the toll for all 12 months was 60. Fifteen troops died in June, the highest monthly total since June 2009.
Both Beyers and Newby were assigned to the 14th Brigade Support Battalion, 116th Cavalry Heavy Brigade Combat Team, in Post Falls, Idaho.
American officials last charged Iran with providing weapons to Shiite militias in 2005 and 2006, when violence peaked in Iraq. In the years since, U.S. officials generally have said that Iran is abiding by a promise it had made to Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki not to provide weapons to the militias.
But in recent months, American officials have renewed their accusations.