Iraqi police and soldiers rounded up nearly 60 people on Friday in security crackdowns in Baghdad and the southern city of Basra, and the US military reported the death of another US soldier in a bombing north of the capital.
At least 22 people were detained and weapons were seized in raids launched before dawn on Friday in two neighborhoods of Basra, Iraq's second largest city, the Iraqi army said.
Another 37 people were arrested in pre-dawn raids on Friday in Baghdad's Dora district, the Interior Ministry said. Dora is a mostly Sunni Arab area and the scene of frequent bombings, ambushes and assassinations.
Sunni Arab politicians have complained that such raids by the Shiite-led ministry have inflamed sectarian tensions as Iraqi politicians are trying to form a new government to include all communities and calm the Sunni-led insurgency. Shiite officials point to numerous killings of police and soldiers by Sunni militants.
The US command said on Friday that the American soldier was killed the previous evening in a roadside bombing north of Baghdad. It was the sixth US military fatality this month and brought to 2,248 the number of US service members to have died since the Iraq war began in March 2003, according to an Associated Press count.
A British soldier was killed on Thursday night in a non-hostile traffic accident in southern Iraq, the British Defense Ministry said.
Also on Friday, German officials appealed to the kidnappers of two German engineers to free them and make contact to begin negotiations. In a tape aired on Tuesday by al-Jazeera television, the previously unknown ``Tawhid and Sunnah Brigades'' threatened to kill the captives unless Germany cut off all links to Iraq by Friday night.
In a statement broadcast by al-Jazeera, German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier urged the kidnappers to release the men -- Thomas Nitschke and Rene Braeunlich. They were seized on Jan. 24 in Beiji, 240km north of Baghdad.
``We regret that we still haven't been able to establish contact with the kidnappers,'' he said, speaking in German with a simultaneous translation into Arabic.
A German deputy foreign minister, Gernot Erler, said the German government was ``still seeking someone to talk'' to ``be able to launch negotiations.''
Meanwhile, thousands of Iraqis protested publication of caricatures of the Prophet Mohammed. The caricatures, printed in a number of European publications, have enraged many Muslims and prompted calls to boycott products from countries whose media ran the pictures.
However, Iraq's leading Shiite cleric suggested that the Islamic extremists responsible for suicide attacks and terrorism were partly responsible for tarnishing the image of Islam.
``We strongly denounce and condemn'' the caricatures, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani said. But he also referred to ``misguided and oppressive'' elements within the Muslim community whose actions had ``projected a distorted and dark image of the faith of justice, love and brotherhood.''