BAGHDAD: Thirty-one US troops were reported killed in a helicopter crash and five more died in insurgent attacks yesterday in the deadliest day for American forces since they invaded Iraq 22 months ago.
Guerillas also killed 25 Iraqis in a string of bombings and raids as the death toll surged to 61.
CNN, quoting the US military, reported that 31 Marines died when their transport helicopter went down in the deserts of the restive Anbar province of western Iraq.
The military confirmed casualties but gave no figures. The cause of the crash was not immediately known.
"Obviously, anytime you lose life it is a sad moment," US President George W Bush told a White House news conference.
Four US Marines were killed in action in Anbar province, and an American soldier died in a rocket-propelled grenade attack north of Baghdad, US officials said.
The latest surge of insurgent attacks appeared aimed at sowing panic even as the US-backed interim government vowed stringent measures to safeguard the election.
Meanwhile, Four Iraqi soldiers were kidnapped in the western city of Ramadi as they were leaving a US military base, police said.
Meanwhile, at least 15 people were killed and 30 wounded in a truck bomb outside the headquarters of a major Kurdish political party in the northern town of Sinjar, the local council chief said.
Sinjar, 400km north of Baghdad, lies in the province of Nineveh.
Elsewhere, in a closely co-ordinated attack, three suicide car bombers hit the town of Riyadh, a Sunni Arab area southwest of the northern city of Kirkuk.
Two explosives-laden cars blew up simultaneously close to an Iraqi army post and police station and a third vehicle detonated minutes later on a nearby highway, a local police chief said.
Four Iraqi policemen, two Iraqi soldiers and three civilians were killed, and at least 12 people were wounded, police said.
Shortly after the blasts, a US combat patrol heading to the scene came under small arms fire and two US soldiers were lightly wounded, the military said.
Police in Baquba, a mixed Shi'ite and Sunni town 65km north of Baghdad, said one Iraqi policeman was killed and at least eight people were wounded when gunmen fired on the local offices of three parties contesting the polls.