Following the attack on the house, occupation forces arrested six people, including three children.

According to the US military, the three dead men were suspected members of a group linked to al-Qaida, but no independent confirmation of the claims was possible.

US military officers said that during Sunday night's raid "suspected members of the Ansar al-Islam terrorist group" attacked soldiers with gunfire and grenades, wounding two.

The 101st Airborne Division said in a statement: "When the soldiers attempted to enter the home the suspects engaged them with small arms fire and one grenade. The unit returned fire, then entered and cleared the building.

Kurdish stronghold

"The American soldiers killed three terrorists during the operation, and turned one male, two females and three children over to the Iraqi police."

The Americans also claimed that two rocket-propelled grenade launchers, eight grenades and several religious books with "anti-coalition content" were seized.

Ansar al-Islam, which Washington says has links to Usama bin Ladin's al-Qaida network, had a stronghold in Kurdish-controlled northern Iraq during Saddam Hussein's rule.

Five Bulgarian and two Thai
soldiers died in Saturday's attack

US missiles scattered the group at the start of the war in April, but officials say it regrouped and is suspected of bombings against occupation forces.

Meanwhile, a spokesman for Polish-led forces in central Iraq has said that five people have been arrested on suspicion of being involved in resistance attacks on Saturday.

Coordinated attacks with car bombs, mortars and machineguns in the holy city of Karbala killed five Bulgarian and two Thai soldiers and 12 Iraqis.

Resistance attacks

Attacks on occupying troops have put pressure on some governments to pull their soldiers out, but both Bulgaria and Thailand have pledged to stay.

Thailand said it would send its first combat troops to Iraq to protect its medical and engineering contingent in Karbala.

The soldiers killed were the first Thai troops to die in action abroad since the Vietnam War.

And on Sunday, two roadside bomb blasts killed two US soldiers in passing convoys, one in Baghdad and the other near the volatile town of Falluja.

The Baghdad blast, in a busy shopping street, also killed two Iraqi children.

The attacks raised to 327 the number of US soldiers killed in action in Iraq since war began in March.