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IRAQ: The violence spikes again

Graphic The four U.S. soldiers who died in a series of roadside bombings Wednesday lifted the number of American service members killed in April to a seven-month high of 50.

Civilian deaths reported by the Iraqi government also reached the highest levels in months as Baghdad experienced intense clashes triggered by an Iraqi government crackdown against Shiite Muslim militias.

U.S. commanders say Sunni Arab militants are also attempting to reassert themselves by staging suicide bombings and other high-profile attacks in parts of the country where they have come under pressure since last year.

The jump in deaths raises questions about whether U.S. and Iraqi forces can consolidate last year's security gains as most of the additional 28,500 American troops deployed to the country return home.

"We have said all along this will be a tough fight," said Army Maj. Gen. Kevin Bergner, a U.S. military spokesman. "There will be periods where we see the extremists, these criminal groups and Al Qaeda terrorists, seek to reassert themselves and reignite violence for their own purposes."

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— Alexandra Zavis in Baghdad

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