More than 20 foreign insurgents, some wearing suicide vests, were killed by US and Iraqi forces during raids in an area being used by militants to stage attacks in Baghdad, the US military said yesterday.
The raids took place in and around Youssifiyah, a town about 20km south of Baghdad, where a US helicopter apparently was shot down by insurgents nearly a month ago, killing the two soldiers aboard.
In the latest operations on Saturday, US and Iraqi forces attacked buildings being used by foreign insurgent groups such as al-Qaeda in Iraq, capturing seven militants and detaining more than 50 suspected ones, the US command said.
Such operations have killed more than 20 foreign insurgents in the last few weeks, several of them caught wearing suicide vests, the military said. That included 12 insurgents, at least five of them foreign, who were killed in Youssifiyah on Tuesday when US troops backed by a helicopter and jets struck a suspected safe house there, the US military said.
It said insurgents have been using the Youssifiyah region as a staging area to conduct suicide attacks in the Iraqi capital.
When the Apache helicopter crashed on April 1, the US command said it was believed to have been shot down, and the Mujahidin Shura Council, purportedly a new umbrella organization that includes al-Qaeda in Iraq and smaller insurgent groups, claimed responsibility for the attack.
The US military did not say whether the suspected militants killed in the latest raids in and around Youssifiyah were believed to have been involved in the helicopter crash. The area is part of the infamous "triangle of death" and the scene of numerous ambushes against US and Iraqi troops, foreigners and Shiite civilians.
A roadside bomb killed a US soldier southwest of Baghdad on Saturday, raising the US death toll for last month to at least 70 service members. But the US military would not give the precise location of Saturday's attack, or say whether it was related to the coalition raids in and around Youssifiyah.
Meanwhile, four bombs exploded in other areas of Iraq yesterday, causing casualties.
A roadside bomb hit a US military convoy in central Tikrit, the hometown of former president Saddam Hussein, police spokesman Major Ahmed Awad said. He said the blast set a Humvee on fire, causing US casualties, but the US command could not immediately confirm that.
Two roadside bombs targeting Iraqi police patrols exploded within a half hour of each other in Baghdad, wounding two policemen and a civilian driving nearby, police said.
In the Sadr City area of Baghdad, a bomb exploded aboard a minibus, wounding three Iraqi civilians, said a police spokesman.