BAGHDAD, Iraq – Iraqi and U.S. forces raided a Shiite militia stronghold of Baghdad Monday, triggering a gunbattle that left three people dead, while 10 people were killed in a suicide bombing at a funeral in Saddam Hussein's hometown.
A roadside bombing southwest of Baghdad killed three U.S. soldiers late Sunday, the U.S. military said. No further details were released. Seven other people were killed and six bodies were found Sunday.
In Baghdad, sounds of heavy gunfire and explosions rattled the Sadr City district starting about 1 a.m. Monday and lasted for more than an hour. Iraqi government television and aides to radical Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr said U.S. aircraft were attacking buildings in the area.
"Several aerial and ground raids began in central Sadr City," al-Sadr aide Jaleel al-Nouri said by telephone as detonations could be heard in the background. "We can see several houses on fire."
Col. Hassan Chaloub, police chief of Sadr City, said three people were killed and 12 injured, including five children. He said three cars and three houses were destroyed.
The U.S. military said in a statement the fighting started when Iraqi and U.S. forces raided the area to catch extremists suspected of running torture cells. The forces took fire as soon as they arrived and one U.S. soldier was injured, statement said.
The U.S. military recently reinforced its troop strength in the city to try to reclaim the streets from militias — which include al-Sadr's Mahdi Army.
"There's gunfire from all sides," Kadhim al-Mohammedawi, a civil servant who lives in Sadr City, said by telephone. "We can hear women and children screaming."
The district became quiet after more than an hour, except for the sounds of emergency vehicles racing through the streets. The fighting stopped when Mahdi Army members received calls on their mobile phones, asking them not to confront U.S. troops, said Col. Hassan Chaloub, police chief of Sadr City. It was not clear who made the calls.
He said three people including a woman and a 3-year-old girl were killed and 12 were injured, including five children and two women. He said three cars and three houses were destroyed in fire.
Late Sunday, scattered clashes broke out between Shiite militiamen and Iraqi soldiers near Hamza Square on the edge of Sadr City, police said. Two militiamen were killed and five combatants were wounded, including two Iraqi soldiers, police said.
About the same time, gunmen ambushed a police patrol in south Baghdad, killing two policemen and wounding five others, police said.
The attack on the mourners occurred about 8:15 p.m. in Tikrit, 80 miles north of Baghdad. The bomber mingled among the crowd in a funeral hall and detonated an explosive belt, police said.
Police Capt. Laith Hamid, who gave the casualty figure, said the mourners were attending services for the father of a local council member, who was killed in the attack. Part of the ceiling collapsed and some people might be trapped under the rubble, Hamid added.
Later, the attacker's vehicle was found and detonated as a safety measure in case it was rigged as a car bomb, police said.
The bombing was the latest in a series of attacks across northern Iraq in recent days that have tested the capabilities of Iraq's U.S.-trained security forces.
On Sunday, Iraqi authorities in Mosul, 225 miles northwest of Baghdad, lifted a partial curfew that was imposed two days earlier in the eastern part of the city after police repulsed a series of insurgent attacks in which a police colonel was killed.
The Defense Ministry said security forces had arrested 62 people in a crackdown across northern Iraq after the street battles.
Iraqi authorities were heartened by the performance of the Mosul police, who stood their ground and drove off the insurgents.
In November 2004, Mosul's entire 5,500-member police force fled during an insurgent uprising and the U.S. military had to send American troops and Kurdish fighters to regain control of the city, Iraq's third largest.
Also Sunday, several U.S. Marines were wounded and a few vehicles were destroyed by a suicide car bombing in Anbar province, the U.S. military said without further details. Iraqi police said the attack was in Fallujah, a heavily guarded city 40 miles west of Baghdad.
Elsewhere, two policemen, two truck drivers, a government security guard, a Sunni preacher and a suspected insurgent were killed. Also Sunday, five bodies were found in Baghdad and one in the southeastern city of Amarrah.
In the Kurdish province of Sulaimaniyah, security forces fired warning shots to disperse hundreds of demonstrators who burned tires and blocked roads to protest high fuel prices and poor living conditions. Three people were injured in the protest in the town of Chamchamal.
"This is too much. We demand the regional government improve the services in Chamchamal," said Ahmed Mohammed, 18, a taxi driver. "This is not the first time that we have complained. We started more than a year ago but there is no solution."