IRAQ 14 insurgents, 10 Iraqi soldiers killed
Around 60 people were killed in Sunday's violence that included ambushes and suicide attacks.
BAGHDAD, Iraq (AP) -- U.S. soldiers killed 14 insurgents in two days of fighting in a strategic northern city, the American military said Monday, and gunmen killed 10 Iraqi soldiers in the central Sunni heartland.
A hard-line Sunni clerical group accused Iraqi government commandos of torturing and killing 10 Sunni Arab civilians in Baghdad, fueling sectarian tensions between the country's two major religious groups.
Soldiers of the U.S. 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment killed four insurgents in a gunbattle Sunday, and 10 more were killed Monday as fighting raged in Tal Afar, 260 miles north of Baghdad, the U.S. command reported. American troops suffered no casualties, the statement said.
However, insurgents bloodied an Iraqi force in Khalis, 45 miles north of Baghdad. Guerrillas firing mortars, machine guns and semiautomatic weapons stormed an Iraqi checkpoint about 5 a.m., killing eight Iraqi soldiers, Khalis police chief Col. Mahdi Saleh said.
About 90 minutes later, a car bomb exploded a few miles away as an Iraqi army patrol passed, killing two soldiers, Saleh said. Two soldiers and three civilians were wounded in the attacks.
Al-Qaida link tenuous
Al-Qaida in Iraq claimed responsibility for the attacks in a Web statement, but the authenticity of the posting could not be confirmed. On June 15, a suicide bomber wearing an army uniform blew himself up in an Iraqi army mess hall in Khalis, killing 26 soldiers.
Six civilians also were killed in the Tal Afar fighting, and 22 were wounded, according to the city police chief, Brig. Gen. Najim Abdullah al-Jubouri. Some of the wounded were hospital workers, officials said.
The city is home to Arabs, Kurds and Turkmen and is located along a major road to Syria, which U.S. and Iraqi officials say is a jumping off point for Islamic extremists infiltrating Iraq.
Two U.S. Marines were killed Sunday by "indirect fire" -- presumably mortar shells -- in the insurgent stronghold of Hit, the U.S. command said. Hit is on the Euphrates River in western Iraq, along another major route from Syria.
On Sunday, suicide attacks, car bombings and ambushes killed about 60 people in Baghdad and elsewhere. The spike in violence occurred despite an ongoing military operation in the capital, code-named Lightning, that has sharply reduced suicide attacks in the capital.
Nevertheless, Defense Minister Saadoun al-Duleimi insisted Operation Lightning had been successful and would be followed by other offensives until "we break the back of the terrorists -- one after another."
Sunnis speak out
Such operations have curbed insurgent attacks but have also angered some Sunnis, who claim their neighborhoods have been unfairly targeted by security forces of the Shiite and Kurdish-dominated government. Sunni Arabs form the core of the insurgency.
On Monday, an influential Sunni clerical organization accused Iraqi security forces of detaining, torturing and killing 10 Sunnis in Baghdad. Government officials had no comment, but a doctor at Yarmouk hospital confirmed receiving the bodies, which he said showed signs of abuse. The doctor spoke on condition of anonymity, fearing reprisal.