The U.S. military reported Thursday the deaths of three U.S. soldiers. Also, Sunni militants killed 14 Shi'ite militiamen and a policeman in a clash southeast of Baghdad, another sign of rising sectarian tensions.
The Shi'ite-Sunni fighting occurred after police and militiamen loyal to radical Shi'ite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr raided a house in Nahrawan, 15 miles southeast of the capital, according to Amer al-Husseini, an aide to al-Sadr. He said the raid was to free a militiaman taken hostage by Sunni militants.
After freeing the hostage and capturing two militants, the Shi'ite militiamen were ambushed by the Sunnis on their way out of the town, he said.
Police Lt. Thair Mahmoud said 12 militiamen and two policemen were wounded.
The U.S. command said two Army soldiers were killed Wednesday when their convoy hit a roadside bomb in Baghdad. Another U.S. soldier died Wednesday in an ambush 37 miles north of Baghdad, the military said. Four other soldiers were wounded.
The deaths raised the U.S. military death toll to at least 2,004, reports the AP. I.L.