U.S. forces and warplanes killed 20 "insurgents" and destroyed five "safe houses" Saturday during an operation against al-Qaeda in Iraq near the Syrian border, the military said. The US military said in a statement that the killings took place during raids on houses in Husaybah, a town near the Syrian border.
Three U.S. Marines and an Army soldier were reported killed in three different areas of Iraq earlier this week.
One Marine was killed in a blast near Haqlaniyah on Friday, the AP reported. Following this, Marines killed four men and destroyed a bunker adjacent to their position, the military said.
Elsewhere, two Marines died Friday by a roadside bomb during near Amiriyah, 25 miles west of Baghdad, the military said.
On Thursday, a U.S. Army soldier died of a "non-hostile gunshot wound" in central Baghdad.
In other incidents on Saturday, two roadside bombs and a drive-by shooting killed three Iraqi policemen and injured four in Baghdad, authorities said. Gunmen also killed a former Iraqi soldier in front of his home in Karbala, 50 miles south of Baghdad, police said.
In Washington, U.S. intelligence officials claimed Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, leader of al-Qaeda in Iraq, has expanded his "terrorism" campaign from Iraq to two dozen groups scattered across almost 40 countries, creating a network that rivals Osama bin Laden's.
The U.S. officials said the threat to American interests from al-Zarqawi compared with that from bin Laden, to whom al-Zarqawi pledged his loyalty a year ago.