U.S. troops killed 11 Iraqis who ambushed a convoy on a highway north of Baghdad Friday, hours after mortar rounds slammed into a U.S. base in the same area, injuring 18 American soldiers, the military said.
Another U.S. soldier was shot and killed while guarding the Baghdad museum, the U.S. military said Friday.
The U.S. military said 11 men attacked the convoy with rocket-propelled grenades and small arms fire near Balad, 55 miles north of the capital. Soldiers of the Army's 4th Infantry Division fired back, killing all the men. None of the Americans was injured.
Late Thursday, blasts from four mortar rounds rocked a huge U.S. base near Balad, injuring 18 soldiers, said Maj. Edward Bryja, of the Army's 3rd Corps Support Command.
Two soldiers were seriously injured, with one undergoing surgery in a hospital located on the base and another evacuated for treatment, Bryja said. Others suffered cuts and small punctures from flying shrapnel, and nine soldiers quickly went back to duty, Army officials said.
Soldiers said flares and tracer bullets sliced across the night sky after the blasts.
"This is the first time the base was attacked — and the first time we've seen mortars," said Sgt. Grant Calease, who said he and other soldiers would nonetheless carry on with a July 4th steak barbecue.
The wounded soldiers belonged to Task Force Iron Horse, a 33,000-member unit that has been conducting raids in mainly Sunni Muslim central Iraq — the latest sweep aimed at putting down insurgents who have been staging daily attacks on American troops.
In other recent developments:
In the north, American forces are holding joint celebrations with Kurdish officials. The Kurds celebrate July 4 as the anniversary of their first government's election in 1992.
On Friday, attackers detonated an explosive on a highway in Baghdad's western outskirts, injuring three passengers in a civilian car and two U.S. soldiers traveling in a Humvee convoy, according to an Associated Press photographer on the scene.
On Thursday evening, a sniper shot and killed a U.S. soldier manning the gunner's hatch of a Bradley fighting vehicle outside the national museum, Pruden said. His name was not immediately available.
Hours before the attack, the national museum displayed several artifacts that were looted after the fall of Baghdad and later recovered. The museum also showed several items from the Treasures of Nimrud, which were found hidden in a bank vault weeks ago. Curators acknowledged that many of the museum's treasures remain unaccounted for.
U.S. soldiers have been beset by daily attacks from an increasingly bold insurgency, raising fears of a political and military quagmire just two months after President Bush declared an end to major combat on May 1.
At least 27 U.S. troops have been killed in hostile fire since Bush's statement.