The military provided no details on the circumstances of the deaths, which it said occurred in the western province of Anbar, where the cities of Falluja and Ramadi are located.

The latest deaths on Saturday bring to 858 the number of US troops who have been killed in combat in Iraq. The total number of deaths, including accidents and other causes, is 1120.

The number of wounded since the 20 March invasion of the oil-rich country is more than 8000, according to the Pentagon.

Al-Arabiya targeted?

In another incident, seven people were killed and 16 wounded when a car bomb exploded at the office of Dubai-based al-Arabiya television in Baghdad.

Iraq has become one of the most
dangerous places for journalists

Iraqi authorities could not immediately confirm the toll reported by al-Arabiya during a news broadcast on Saturday.

Najwa Qasim, senior al-Arabiya correspondent in Baghdad, said the blast had started a fire and damaged the building.

She said
a suspected car bomb had exploded in the parking lot but she was not sure the television station was the intended target.

The satellite channel is Saudi-owned. It has often been attacked on websites used by Islamist groups for its perceived pro-western stance in the Arab world.

An armed group calling itself the 1920 Revolution Brigades claimed it had brought down the building of the "Americanised spies speaking in the Arabic tongue", a website statement on Saturday said.

"We have threatened them to no avail that they are the mouthpiece of the American occupation in Iraq," the statement said. It warned of more attacks against this "treacherous network".

The authenticity of the statement has not been verified.

Iraqis killed

More soldiers and civilians died
on Saturday as violence surged

Elsewhere, Muqadam al-Hamadani, information adviser at the National Association of Tribal Leaders in Iraq, announced that US troops have arrested Shaikh Hisham al-Dulaimi, head of the association, and his 18 year old son.

Al-Dulaimi played a prominent role in negotiations leading to the release of some foreign captives in Iraq.

Also on Saturday, seven Iraqis were killed and 14 wounded during clashes between fighters and US troops in an area south-west of Baghdad, police and hospital sources said.

Fighting broke out in Haswa when fighters attacked US troops that were raiding buildings in the village, police said.

Reuters Television footage showed two civilian cars and a truck riddled with bullets, their seats stained with blood.

Occupants said they had been caught in a crossfire. Some had been taken to hospital in nearby Iskandariya, some 40km from Baghdad.

It was unclear how many of the dead and wounded were fighters and how many were civilians.

Neither the US nor the British military, which deployed in the area this week, had any information on the incident. Residents of Haswa said the trouble began when US troops raided a local mosque and detained its imam.