Some 1,000 American troops launched an offensive in western Iraq near the Syrian border on Saturday aimed at Al-Qaeda fighters, the US military said.
The operation against "a known terrorist sanctuary" started in the town of Sadah in the western province of Anbar, about eight miles from the Iraq- Syria border, the U.S. military said in a statement.
The offensive also was aimed at stopping foreign fighters from entering the country from Syria and at improving security in the area ahead of Iraq's Oct. 15 national referendum on the country's draft constitution, the military said.
In violence Saturday, gunmen killed Iraqi army Lt. Col. Hatam Baani Mohammed Al-Rubaiee while he traveling to work in Baghdad, said police Maj. Falah Al-Mohammadawi. Separately, a roadside bomb went off near a police patrol in Kirkuk, north of Baghdad, killing four civilians and injuring 10 others, doctors and the police said.
In Baquba, north of the capital, an Iraqi soldier and bus driver died and three soldiers injured when gunmen opened fire on their vehicle. A seven-year-old child was accidentally killed when police opened fire on the car she was travelling, a military source said Saturday.
Two Iraqis, including a soldier, died in a bomb attack in Dujail, south of Baquba, on an army patrol, said a local military source, according to <i>AFP</I>.
Two US soldiers were killed in separate bomb attacks, one in central Baghdad and the other near Baiji, some 200 kilometres (120 miles) north of the capital, the US military said Saturday.
In another development, the U.S. army freed about 500 Iraqi detainees from the Abu Ghraib prison on Saturday, completing its plan to release a total of more than 1,000 this week in honor of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, the AP reported.