Iraqi security forces said they arrested the head of an al-Qaeda cell in a western Iraqi city yesterday.
State TV, meanwhile, said the speaker of Iraq's parliament, Mahmoud al-Mash'hadani, was to travel to Iran yesterday to attend a conference of Asian parliamentarians.
Acting on a tip-off, soldiers descended on a building in the city of Rawah, 275km northwest of Baghdad, where they arrested local al-Qaeda commander Abu Muhayyam al-Masri, whose name is a pseudonym meaning, "the Egyptian," a Defense Ministry official said.
Aides Abu Issam al-Libi, or "the Libyan," and Abu Zaid al-Suri, "the Syrian," were also arrested among nine other members of the cell, said the official, who asked that his name not be used because he was not authorized to speak to the media.
The official said al-Suri confessed to being responsible for organizing at least one suicide bombing in Baghdad. He said the raid also netted a large quantity of weapons.
Rawah lies deep in Anbar Province, where Sunni Arab insurgents routinely launch deadly attacks on US and Iraqi forces that show no sign of diminishing in numbers or intensity, more than three years after the US invasion.
The US military said two US soldiers assigned to the 89th Military Police Brigade died when the vehicle they were traveling in was hit by a roadside bomb at 12:48pm on Thursday in western Baghdad. It said another soldier was wounded in the incident, but gave no details about those injuries.
It said the Marine, assigned to Regimental Combat Team 5, died Thursday from wounds suffered in fighting in Anbar.
In other violence, at least 35 people were killed on Thursday as a series of concerted bombings ripped through Baghdad amid shootings elsewhere.
At least 24 people were killed in Baghdad itself as the city was wracked by at least eight blasts. The worst was a suicide car bomb near the Mishin shopping center, in the southeast, which killed seven people and wounded 27.
Police said a mortar shell was fired at the site to lure people in before the bomber detonated his vehicle, ensuring maximum casualties.
A bomb then exploded in the Suq Haraj market in the Bab al-Sharqi area, killing three and wounding 19, a medic at Al-Kindi hospital said.
Later, a suicide car bomb exploded in a village near the Abu Ghraib area on the capital's western outskirts, killing five and wounding six.
Northeast Baghdad's mixed Sunni-Shiite Qahira neighborhood was hit by a blast that shook the Faraj market, killing three people and wounding 12. The nearby College of Fine Arts was also attacked by a car bomb that killed two more and wounded three others.
At least six Iraqi soldiers were killed and 10 wounded when a suicide bomber detonated his explosives-rigged car near an army checkpoint in the northern city of Tal Afar yesterday, the military said.
The unit's commander, Colonel Abdul-Karim Jassim, was among those killed in the 2:00pm attack, while eight civilians were also injured, army spokesman Brigadier Najim Abdullah said.