Bloody Saturday
 
On Saturday, two soldiers were killed when their patrol was hit by a roadside bomb in Nineveh province.
 
Two others died in separate bomb attacks in Diyala province to the northeast of the capital, where 3,000 extra US troops have been sent to combat a rise in violence.

 

Two were killed in Baghdad, one by a roadside bomb and the other by small arms fire, and a seventh soldier was killed by a suicide bomber while on patrol southwest of Baghdad.

 

On Friday, a US soldier was killed after the patrol approached two suspicious men for questioning near a mosque southwest of Baghdad, and one of the suspects blew himself up.

 

A military spokesman said US troops fired at the second suspect after he began acting aggressively, detonating his suicide vest.

 

Balad Ruz bombing

 

Sunday saw a number of violent incidents in addition to the deadly attacks on US soldiers.

 

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A car parked near a police station and an open-air market exploded in Balad Ruz, northeast of Baghdad, killing nine civilians and one policeman and wounding 30 other people, police said.

 

In Baquba 60km north of Baghdad, armed men at a fake checkpoint killed five people and wounded eight others when they opened fire on three minibuses that sought to flee from the highway trap.

 

At least 73 other Iraqis were killed or found dead nationwide on Sunday, including 31 bullet-riddled bodies of men who were apparent victims of death squads usually believed to be run by Shia militias.

 

Eight of the bodies were found by police in an industrial area of the western city of Falluja.

 

Diwaniya fighting

 

In one of Sunday's major battles, al-Mahdi army members battled Iraqi troops and local police searching for two of the Shia militia's leaders in Diwaniya, 130km south of Baghdad.

 

At least three people were killed and 24 wounded, official Iraqi sources reported. 

 

The clashes erupted anew at around 1:30pm local time. One soldier and two other people were killed, and three civilians wounded, an army officer said on condition of anonymity, since he was not authorised to speak with the media.

 

It could not immediately be determined how many of the reported casualties may have been al-Mahdi army militiamen.

 

Clash with militia

 

Gun battles first erupted on Saturday evening after Iraqi soldiers and police cordoned off a market in search of two senior al-Mahdi army figures wanted by the US-led multinational force in connection with sectarian killings.

 

Iraqi soldiers check vehicles at a
checkpoint in Baghdad [Reuters]

On Sunday, the fighting resumed on the east side Diwaniya's east side at about 9am local time with the support of US fighter jets and helicopter gunships, police said.

 

The southern clashes came just hours after US helicopter gunships attacked targets in east Baghdad, an al-Mahdi army-dominated mostly Shia district, killing four suspects, the US military reported.

 

A US military spokesman said the men were preparing to fire 12 rockets into the Green Zone, a fortified enclave housing Iraqi government and diplomatic offices.

 

Meanwhile, in northern Iraq, US forces "detained seven suspected  terrorists in overnight raids targeting the al-Qaeda in Iraq network in the Mosul and Taji areas", a statement said.