Iraqi forces raid town to rescue Shiite hostages as three US troops, three Iraqis killed
Iraqi troops entered the besieged city of Madain, where Sunni gunmen have reportedly seized 80 hostages and threatened to kill them unless all Shiites leave the community, an interior ministry official said.
Two army battalions entered Madain and the neighboring communities of Hafriyah and Al-Wihda at 5:00 am (0100 GMT) on the hunt for the Islamists, who overpowered the city Friday night and quickly captured more than 80 Shiite residents, the official said.
"They have cordoned off the area and started search operations."
Iraqi army special forces had surrounded Madain, home to Shiites and Sunnis, since Saturday, hoping to avert a sectarian bloodbath that could badly damage Iraq's ethnic and religious relations. It was unclear if the troops launched the operation on their own or were being backed by US forces.
Many residents have already fled the city, 30 kilometres south of Baghdad, with some heading further south to predominantly Shiite Kut.
In the meantime, three U.S. soldiers were killed when a Marine base came under indirect fire near Ramadi, west of Baghdad, the military said Sunday.
Seven service members were injured in the attack Saturday night, a military statement said. Three were evacuated for medical treatment, while the other four sustained minor injuries. Two of them have returned to duty.
The attackers reportedly fled into a nearby mosque and were pursued by Iraqi security forces, the military said, but none were found there.
Also on Sunday, a roadside bomb targeting an American military convoy in Al-Barjiya village in northern Iraq, killed three Iraqi civilians and wounded two others, said Col. Wathiq Ali of the Mosul police.
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