Troops who arrived later found five of the soldiers dead and the other three remained missing, according to a statement from Major-General William Caldwell, the chief US military spokesman in Iraq.

He said: "The quick reaction force reported finding five members of the team killed in action and three others whose duty status and whereabouts are unknown."

Separately, the US military announced the death of an American soldier critically wounded in a bomb attack on Friday near Iskandariya, 50km south of Baghdad.

Search under way

The US military refused to specify whether the Iraqi interpreter was among those killed or among the missing in the incident near Mahmudiya, citing security reasons.

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Soldiers were searching for the missing, using drones and fighter jets and setting up checkpoints throughout the area.

Soldiers were also trying to enlist support from local leaders for information.

Caldwell said: "Make no mistake: We will never stop looking for our soldiers until their status is definitively determined, and we continue to pray for their safe return."

The attack occurred nearly a year after two American soldiers went missing following a June 16 attack in the same area, prompting a massive search. Their bodies were found tied together with a bomb between one victim's legs several days later.

Scattered violence

At least 30 people were reported killed or found dead in different parts of Iraq on Saturday.

Iraqi security sources said that police found 17 bodies - apparent victims of sectarian death squads - bearing signs of torture in different areas of Baghdad.

All but two were found on the predominantly Sunni western side of the Tigris river that divides the capital where sectarian violence appears to be on the rise.

US patrols continue to be subjected to daily
attacks and roadside bombings [AFP]

Assailants in the northern city of Mosul killed Dr Adib Ibrahim Mahmoud, head of the Islamic Medical Association in Iraq, after he returned from his clinic.

Mosul also witnessed violent clashes between fighters and the US forces in the industrial district.

In Rayhana, in the western province of Anbar, a person wearing an explosive belt blew himself up near a US patrol on Saturday.

The attack was followed by a second rocket attack, destroying a US vehicle in the same area which was closed by the US forces.

In Haqlaniya, near the city of Haditha, a US patrol came under grenade attack, wounding a number of soldiers, according to Iraqi police.

In Samarra, fighters dynamited the house of the brother of the head of the municipal council after emptying moving the occupants to the city's south.

Official's son hurt

Also on Saturday, the son of Tariq al-Hashimi, the Iraqi vice-president, was wounded when an explosive device went off shortly before noon as he was passing in a private car through west Baghdad's al-Amirya neighbourhood.

In a separate incident, a woman was killed and three others injured in a bomb explosion near a house at al-Shaadiya township in northeast Baghdad.

Another bomb went off in nearby al-Wajihiya area.

In Karbala, a senior police officer said that police had arrested in the city's centre a fighter with links to al-Qaeda in Iraq.

Police said during initial investigations, the detainee admitted that he had killed the police chief of west Karbala's Ain al-Tamr district in September last year and six members of the Jabor clan in exchange for money for al-Qaeda in Iraq.