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BAGHDAD (Reuters) - Five U.S. soldiers were killed in a coordinated ambush in the northern Iraqi city of Mosul on Monday, the U.S. military said, making it one of the deadliest single attacks against American forces in months.
The patrol was hit by a roadside bomb and then came under small arms fire, the military said, a day after extra Iraqi troops arrived for a final push against al Qaeda in what has been described as their last major urban stronghold.
Iraqi defense ministry spokesman Major-General Mohammed al- Askari said Iraq was studying the prospect of temporarily shutting the border with Syria as part of the offensive intended to stop foreign fighters joining al Qaeda.
"It would be a very important step to prevent al Qaeda from reinforcing its ranks from outside," Askari said, adding aircraft would monitor the frontier.
Violence has fallen sharply across Iraq, and Washington says attacks are down 60 percent since last June. But northern Iraq remains the biggest security worry after al Qaeda regrouped in Nineveh, of which Mosul is the capital, Salahuddin and Diyala provinces.
The U.S. military said in a statement that the five soldiers were all killed by the roadside bomb. Gunmen then opened fire on the rest of the patrol from a nearby mosque.
Iraqi troops entered the mosque, but the gunmen had fled, the military said.
Iraqi army and police also reported that fighting had broken out in the Haysuma neighborhood, a known al Qaeda stronghold in the east of the city, 390 km (240 miles) north of Baghdad.