Mosul has been the scene of increasing attacks against Iraqi police and army patrols [EPA]

Nine Iraqi soldiers have been killed in a roadside bomb in the northern Iraqi city of Mosul. The soldiers were returning home from duty.

The blast left six people wounded, including five soldiers, police and army sources said on Wednesday.

Mosul, 350 kilometres (220 miles) north of Baghdad, and  surrounding Nineveh province remain one of the most volatile areas of  Iraq, even as violence in the rest of the country waned after peaking in 2006 and 2007 during a brutal sectarian war.

Violence appears to have risen again in recent months, with July  and August recording two of the highest monthly deaths since  2008, according to Iraqi figures.

Fighters have launched steady attacks on Iraqi police and troops in recent weeks, while the US military 'formally ended combat operations in August,' seven and a half years after the US-led invasion that ousted Saddam Hussein. US troops have lost 4400 soldiers in a addition to thousands of injured army personnel.

Falluja attacked

In western Iraq, the US military said at least seven people were killed in an overnight raid on a site at the western city of Falluja.

Although the US military participated in the raid, it said the operation, which was launched early Wednesday morning, was Iraqi planned and led.  

Wednesday operation is the second combat action the US troops participate in since the US announcement of the end of combat operations in Iraq. US forces engaged earlier this month with fighters in the Iraqi eastern province of Diyala.  

A local police commander said one of the dead was a former Iraqi army colonel. A police major said the gun battle lasted four hours. The two police officials asked not to be identified.

At least four other people, including a 90-year-old woman, were wounded in the raid, which took place in the Hay Jubail district of Falluja in western Anbar province, the sources said.

A person whose home is in the neighbourhood said residents opened fire on the troops because they thought they were under attack, and eight people were killed in the ensuing gun battle.

But another neighbour, Juma Yasin, said no one from the neighbourhood fired shots.

"We were sleeping (outside) when suddenly we heard very heavy shooting. We immediately entered our houses and when it was finished we went out and found those people killed," he said. "There was no resistance at all."

Falluja was the scene of some of the fiercest fighting after the 2003 US-led invasion. The vast desert province of Anbar is Iraq's Sunni heartland and was a haven for al-Qaeda. It was also the stronghold of Iraqi resistance fighters following the US-led invasion of Iraq.

Source: Agencies