Two US soldiers in Iraq were killed and four were wounded in a spate of guerrilla attacks in which at least two Iraqis also died, the US military and witnesses said yesterday.
The latest violence, in Baghdad and a town to the west of the capital, was the latest indication that US occupation forces were facing guerrilla warfare in Sunni Muslim central Iraq, once the cradle of support for ousted president Saddam Hussein.
A US military spokesman said one soldier was killed while a patrol was pursuing Iraqi gunmen in the Azamiyah district of Baghdad late on Sunday.
An Iraqi gunman was killed and another wounded in the clash.
The second US soldier was killed early yesterday when a rocket-propelled grenade hit his vehicle in the district of Kadhimiya.
The fatalities brought to 29 the number of US soldiers killed in action in Iraq since US President George W. Bush declared major combat over on May 1.
A soldier was shot and fatally wounded at Baghdad University on Sunday.
At least one Iraqi man was shot dead and four US soldiers wounded during a night of attacks in the volatile town of Ramadi, the military said yesterday.
Six Iraqi assailants ambushed a US position in the town, around 100km west of Baghdad, but it was not clear whether the attackers used rocket-propelled grenades or a bomb, a US spokesman in Ramadi said.
"At about that time, one of our vehicles was attempting to impose a roadblock. A Toyota truck approached. One of the men in the Toyota truck was shot and killed. The other was detained for questioning," Captain Michael Calvert said.
US officers did not say who had killed the man. But staff at Ramadi general hospital said US troops arrived there late on Sunday night and left a body of a decapitated man, saying they had shot him because he did not stop at their checkpoint.
A US military spokesman in Baghdad said four soldiers had been wounded in the ambush.
On Saturday, seven recruits to a US-backed Iraqi police force were killed in Ramadi when a remote-controlled bomb exploded outside a police station.
Ramadi is part of a mainly Sunni Muslim area to the north and west of Baghdad where US forces have faced much of the most violent resistance to their occupation of Iraq.
Some residents said two people had been shot by US forces on Sunday night but Calvert had reports of only one death. He said there had also been a mortar attack during the night.
US Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Pat Roberts told CNN on Sunday intelligence reports indicated there was now about a 70-30 chance Saddam was alive, up from 50-50 in the early days after his ouster by US-led forces on April 9.
Underlining the importance Washington now attaches to resolving Saddam's fate after putting a US$25 million reward on his head, Roberts said: "It is a big ticket item for us if we're going to eliminate the fear [among Iraqis] and be successful."
A taped message purporting to be from Saddam aired on Arab television on Friday told Iraqis to rally behind resistance to the occupation of their country by US-led forces.
While Washington points the finger at loyalists of Saddam's Baathist regime, many Iraqis say discontent is mounting in the country over what is seen as failure by the US-led administration in Baghdad to return government quickly to Iraqi hands and rebuild the state.