BAGHDAD, Iraq – Ten terrorists were killed early Tuesday morning by coalition forces as they hunted for an Al Qaeda in Iraq leader at a safe house in northern Iraq, officials reported. Three of the terrorists were wearing vests equipped to carry out homicide bombings.
U.S. and Iraqi forces surrounded the house in Balad and killed a terrorist sleeping outside after he woke up and attempted to engage the troops with a pistol, according to coalition officials. The terrorist was shot before he could fire his weapon but as he fell, he reached toward his chest and detonated a suicide vest, sending a shower of charred U.S. dollars — presumably on his body — into the air. No coalition troops were harmed during the explosion.
Coalition troops also killed nine more terrorists, seven of whom tried to flee the safe house. Two of them were wearing the explosive vests but they didn't detonate. A weapons cache and $1,000 in U.S. currency were found inside the house.
Meanwhile, a top Iraqi official spoke out against insurgent violence.
Mahmud Dawood al-Mashhadani, the parliament speaker, said in a televised speech Tuesday that the government's top priority would be to quell widespread bloodshead.
"Not an hour passes without Iraqis being stricken by the killing of our sons and loved ones in Baghdad and other areas, by booby traps, kidnappings, assassinations, armed clashes, roadside bombs and other brutal terrorist attacks," al-Mashhadani, a Sunni Arab, said in a speech on state-run Iraqiya television.
But insurgents launched new attacks, killing at least seven Iraqis and a U.S. soldier.
The worst attack involved a bomb hidden in a parked minibus that exploded in Baghdad's main wholesale market, killing two Iraqis and wounding five, police said.
In another development, the U.S. command announced that Iraq's Central Criminal Court had convicted 12 suspected insurgents in April of crimes such as joining a terrorist group. They included two men who were given life sentences for joining Al Qaeda in Iraq operations: Hassan Abdullah Muhsin and Mohammed Dhaher Ibrahim Yassen Jazzah.
"Not an hour passes without Iraqis being stricken by the killing of our sons and loved ones in Baghdad and other areas, by booby traps, kidnappings, assassinations, armed clashes, roadside bombs and other brutal terrorist attacks," parliament speaker Mahmud Dawood al-Mashhadani, a Sunni Arab, said in a speech on state-run Iraqiya television.
Thousands of Iraqis have been killed in attacks by Sunni-led insurgent groups, foreign ones such as Al Qaeda in Iraq, and militias aligned with Iraq's Sunni and Shiite political parties. Sectarian killings by death squads also mean that the tortured bodies of kidnapped Iraqi civilians are discovered on the streets of cities such as Baghdad nearly every day.
U.S. officials hope the new Iraqi government, expected to be finalized this month, will be able to calm sectarian tensions and lure many minority Sunni Arabs away from the insurgency so U.S. and other international troops can begin heading home.
Al-Mashhadani said that is his hope, too.
He said all Iraqis must renounce violence and that Shiite, Sunni and Kurdish political parties must rule "by a common vision," and build police and military forces that can improve security and pave the way for the eventual withdrawal of U.S. troops.
The London-based Asharq Al Awsat newspaper reported Tuesday that Iraqi insurgents met with the U.S. Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad seven times but decided to break off contacts after progress was made toward forming a new Iraqi government.
The newspaper quoted what it described as an Iraqi militant leader, who spoke on condition of anonymity, as saying that the talks with Khalilzad took place in Amman, Jordan, on Jan. 16 and continued later in Baghdad. According to the newspaper, the purported insurgent said representatives of more than 10 Iraqi resistance groups held talks that were centered on a U.S. withdrawal from Iraq. There was no immediate comment from U.S. officials on the report.
Tuesday's worst attack occurred in central Baghdad when the bomb hidden in the minibus exploded in Shorja, a market where wholesalers use warehouses, stalls and shops to sell food, clothing and house products to businessmen and shoppers. At least two Iraqis were killed and five wounded, said Lt. Col. Falah al-Mohamadwi, an Interior Ministry policeman.
Baghdad is filled with privately owned minibuses that charge small fees to take citizens around the often-crowded streets of the capital.
A roadside bomb killed the U.S. soldier at about 9:50 p.m. Monday, about 40 miles south of Baghdad. The area is part of the infamous "Triangle of Death" and the scene of many ambushes of U.S. and Iraqi troops, foreigners and Shiite civilians.
That bombing raised to at least 2,406 the number of members of the U.S. military who have died since the beginning of the war in 2003, according to an Associated Press count.
It was the first reported U.S. fatality in May. In April, 70 American servicemen died in Iraq, the highest monthly figure since November, when 84 were killed.
Monday's deadliest insurgent attack in Iraq occurred in Madain, a Shiite town 14 miles southeast of Baghdad, when a bomb exploded in an outdoor market, killing four Iraqis and wounding two.
In other violence Tuesday,
— A roadside bomb exploded near a convoy carrying American security contractors in Waziriyah, northern Baghdad, wounding at least two of them, U.S. military official said. An Iraqi ambulance driver also was killed, but it wasn't immediately clear if he died in the blast or gunfire that apparently followed the attack, the official said.
— A roadside bomb also missed a police patrol, killing one civilian and injuring another one in western Baghdad, said police 1st Lt. Maithem Abdel-Razaq.
— In Dora, one of the capital's most violent neighborhoods, a roadside bomb wounded three Iraqi soldiers in a convoy, said police Capt. Jamil Hussein.
— Gunmen attacked a quarry 25 miles north of Baqouba, killing a guard and kidnapping the quarry owner's son, police said.
— Gunmen kidnapped two residents of Buhriz, 35 miles north of Baghdad, police said.
— Two civilians were killed and one was wounded in two drive-by shootings in two areas of the capital, Nafaq al-Shurta and Yarmouk, police said.
— The handcuffed, blindfolded and bullet-ridden bodies of eight Iraqi men were found, four in Baghdad and four in Suwayrah, 25 miles south of Baghdad, officials said.
On Monday, at least 15 bodies were found in the capital.
FOX News' Brett Baier and the Associated Press contributed to this report.