A suicide truck bomber struck a strategic bridge north of Baghdad on Tuesday, sending cars plunging into the river and killing at least 10 people, police said. The attack occurred about noon on the Thiraa Dijla bridge in Taji, a town near a U.S. air base some 12 miles north of the capital, police said, according to the AP. The bridge lies on the main highway that links Baghdad with the northern city of Mosul.
In another development, some 16,000 American and Iraqi troops launched a new operation north of Baghdad targeting gunmen who have fled a crackdown in the city of Baqouba, the U.S. military said Tuesday. Operation Lightning Hammer, which started late Monday with an air assault, was part of a broader U.S. push announced Monday. Maj. Gen. Benjamin Mixon, the commander of U.S. forces in northern Iraq, said the troops were pursuing al-Qaeda cells that had been disrupted and forced into hiding by previous operations.
Elsewhere, local officials said four civilians, including a 3-year-old girl, were killed Tuesday during a raid by joint U.S.-Iraqi forces in Baghdad's Shiite district of Sadr City.
Three American troops died and another was wounded in a blast near their vehicle in northern Iraq, the military said Tuesday. The Task Force Lightning soldiers died as a result of wounds sustained while conducting operations Monday in the northern Ninevah province, according to the statement. Another American soldier died during fighting in Baghdad.
Four U.S. soldiers were killed Monday across Iraq, the military said. Three were killed in an explosion near their vehicle in northern Ninevah province, while the other died during fighting in Baghdad.
Meanwhile, Iraq's prime minister appeared to clear the way Monday for a crisis council that seeks to save his crumbling government. Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's government has been hit by boycotts and defections.
According to the AP, Al-Maliki has struggled over the past days to pull together a summit of Iraq's main religious and ethnic groups. The meeting finally appeared likely after U.S. Ambassador Ryan Crocker called on Vice President Tariq al-Hashemi, the lone Sunni leader invited to the talks that are scheduled for Tuesday. Al-Hashemi's attendance had been in question.
A senior American official said the stage was set for major changes in the "structure, nature and direction of the Iraqi state."