BAGHDAD, Iraq – Insurgents executed a number of attacks across Iraq (search) on Saturday, with bomb blasts killing at least 16 people, including an American soldier. U.S. forces captured 10 men suspected in the downing of a civilian helicopter and the shooting death of the lone survivor pilot, U.S. Army Col. David Bishop told FOX News.
The suspects in the helicopter assault were captured after U.S. soldiers from Task Force Baghdad (search) were tipped off by Iraqi civilians who told the Americans he knew where insurgents had left a blue KIA pickup truck employed in the attack and led them to the location, the military said in a statement.
"We wouldn't have found these guys or the crash, for that matter, had it not been for Iraqi citizens coming forward and providing us with that information," said Bishop, commander of the 3rd Brigade Combat Team of the 1st Armored Division.
The colonel added that a hotline has facilitated information-sharing between U.S. forces and Iraqi locals.
"A local Iraqi citizen can call a number and provide us with information, no questions asked, and then we can go investigate it. That's turning out to be very successful for us, and the Iraqi army, as well," Bishop said.
Soldiers searched two nearby houses shortly after midnight Saturday, arresting three men and seizing bomb-making material in the first home. Three suspects were grabbed from the second residence and all were being questioned, the military said.
Bishop said U.S. forces also found "some large-caliber, anti-aircraft ammunition, which the average person doesn't have laying around their house. We also found some RPG sites and components, as well as some pamphlets, which are instructive on how to shoot down aircrafts and things of that matter," he said.
The Russian-made Mi-8 (search) helicopter, flying from Baghdad to Tikrit, was gunned down about 12 miles north of the capital on Thursday. The dead included six American bodyguards for U.S. diplomats, three Bulgarian crew members and two security guards from Fiji.
Two groups claimed responsibility for the attack and released video to support their claims.
In one video, insurgents are seen capturing and shooting to death the lone survivor, identified as a Bulgarian pilot.
The aircraft was owned by Heli Air of Bulgaria and chartered by Toronto-based SkyLink Aviation Inc. The six Americans were employed by Blackwater Security Consulting — a subsidiary of security contractor Blackwater USA of Moyock, N.C. Four of its employees were slain and mutilated by insurgents in Fallujah a year ago.
In other violence, Associated Press Television News cameraman Saleh Ibrahim was shot and killed when gunfire broke out after an explosion in the northern city of Mosul, 225 miles northwest of Baghdad.
AP photographer Mohammed Ibrahim, no relation to the dead man, suffered shrapnel wounds in the same incident. While at the hospital, Mohamed Ibrahim was escorted away by U.S. forces along with his brother and their whereabouts could not immediately be determined. The U.S. military said it was investigating the incident.
Iraq has experienced a surge in militant attacks that have caused heavy casualties in recent weeks, ending a relative lull after the country's historic Jan. 30 elections. Iraqi leaders are struggling to form a Cabinet that will include members of the Sunni minority, believed to be the driving force in the insurgency.
A series of explosions shook the Iraqi capital Saturday. The most deadly was a roadside bomb that exploded near an Iraqi army convoy on the outskirts of Baghdad, killing nine soldiers and wounding 20, police said.
Some of the surviving soldiers opened fire in response, shooting and killing the driver of a civilian car, police said.
The attack occurred near the Abu Ghraib prison, which was at the center of a prison abuse scandal last year after photographs were publicized showing U.S. soldiers humiliating Iraqi inmates.
Elsewhere in Baghdad, a car bomb targeting a U.S. patrol detonated on a busy road that links to the perilous highway leading to the airport. One Iraqi was killed and seven wounded, hospital officials said. Three U.S. soldiers also were injured in the blast, which knocked down power lines and destroyed one military and two civilian vehicles, U.S. forces said.
In al-Haswah, west of Baghdad, a U.S. soldier assigned to the 155th Brigade Combat Team, II Marine Expeditionary Force was killed when a roadside bomb exploded Saturday near the convoy in which he was traveling, the U.S. military said.
At least 1,565 members of the U.S. military have died since the beginning of the Iraq war in March 2003, according to an Associated Press count.
— An Iraqi civilian was killed by a roadside bomb on a highway in Samarra, 60 miles north of Baghdad, police said.
— A roadside bomb hit an Iraqi army convoy in Mosul, wounding three soldiers, police and hospital officials said.
— A bomb exploded near a Shiite mosque in Abu al-Khasib, a town near Basra in southern Iraq. Two charred bodies were pulled from a destroyed car and at least two Iraqis were injured, police said. A leading Sunni group, the Association of Muslim Scholars, condemned the attack in a statement late Saturday, calling it a "hideous crime" and warned the militants they "will not crack our unity and sow dissension between us by spitting out your venom."
The Associated Press contributed to this report.