A woman wearing an explosives belt blew herself up near a US patrol northeast of Baghdad -- a rare female suicide bombing that wounded seven US troops and five Iraqis, the US military said yesterday.
Tensions and security concerns remain in Baghdad. US troops fired on a minibus carrying bank employees on their way to work on Tuesday after the vehicle tried to go through a roadblock, killing at least two people on board.
Also yesterday, Iraqi lawmakers briefly boycotted the start of a legislative session, demanding that US forces ease checkpoint searches as they try to enter the fortified Green Zone, where the parliament building is located.
Firyad Rawndouzi, spokesman for the Kurdish bloc, said the boycott came in response to "the insulting behavior of the American soldiers toward parliament members" as they tried to reach the building.
The US military says attacks across Iraq have fallen to their lowest level since February last year, attributing this partly to a surge of nearly 30,000 troops earlier this year.
A statement said Tuesday's suicide attack happened near the provincial capital Baqubah when the woman detonated her explosives belt.
An Iraqi army officer in Diyala said on Tuesday that the female suicide bomber had targeted a US patrol near Baqubah and wounded five Iraqi civilians.
The officer, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to share the information with the media, did not know at the time if there were US casualties.
Attacks by women in Iraq are believed to be rare but are not unprecedented.
With the lull in violence in Baghdad, US and Iraqi forces conducted sweeps against al-Qaeda outside the capital, the US military said yesterday, detaining suspects in Tikrit and Kirkuk as well as the Iraqi capital.
Meanwhile, a top Iraqi Sunni cleric yesterday called for the tens of thousands of Sunni Arab militants allied to US forces in the fight against al-Qaeda to be integrated into regular security forces.
Sheikh Ahmed Abdul Ghafour al-Samarraie, head of the Sunni endowment, said that the fate of around 70,000 Sunni Arab men fighting against al-Qaeda militants must be decided by Baghdad soon.
"The fate of these 70,000 men is not defined and it must be decided soon," said Samarraie, whose organization oversees the management of all the Sunni shrines across Iraq.
Since last year, Sunni Arab men have been forming groups called "concerned local citizen groups" to fight al-Qaeda militants and to guard their neighborhoods.
These groups are backed by the US military and the program has seen success in some Sunni areas, especially Anbar province.
Last year dozens of Sunni tribes set up such a group called the Anbar Awakening Council which has managed to push out al-Qaeda fighters from the province.
Such councils have sprung up in many other Sunni regions of Iraq since the Anbar experiment.