U.S. and Iraqi forces rescue kidnapped Sunnis

U.S. and Iraqi forces rescued seven Sunni Arab men seized by suspected Shiite militiamen near Baghdad, part of a campaign to suppress sectarian death squads responsible for hundreds of deaths this year.

The kidnapping north of Baghdad on Thursday was the latest in a wave that is plaguing the country. Many of the abductions are part of the sectarian warfare plaguing the Iraqi capital, home to large communities of Sunnis, Shiites and Kurds.

The U.S. command also announced the deaths of eight American soldiers, five of whom died in situations unrelated to enemy action.

Three of the soldiers were killed Thursday when roadside bombs hit two U.S. Army convoys southwest of Baghdad, the military said. The U.S. command also announced that a U.S. soldier died Tuesday from non-combat related wounds.

In addition, four U.S. Marines died Thursday when their tank rolled off a bridge into a canal and they drowned, the military said. The accident happened near Karmah, 80 kilometers (50 miles) west of Baghdad in Anbar Province.

The eight deaths raised to at least 2,434 the number of members of the U.S. military who have died since the Iraq war began in March 2003, according to an Associated Press count.

Thursday's hostage rescue occurred in two Sunni villages near Khan Bani Saad, 25 miles (40 kilometers) northeast of Baghdad.

Iraqi police said the trouble started when dozens of gunmen, some of them wearing military uniforms, raided the villages and abducted 10 young men, reports the AP.

I.L.