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Iraq Transition

Insurgent group says it captured, killed U.S. troops

Story Highlights

• Al Qaeda in Iraq says it clashed Saturday with "Crusader" forces
• CNN cannot verify claim, but past postings on sites have been credible
• 4,000 soldiers look for missing troops after 5 killed in attack on U.S. patrol
• Two U.S. soldiers killed in separate explosions in Iraq, military says
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BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) -- As U.S. troops searched for three soldiers reportedly captured after an attack on their convoy, new attacks killed more troops and Iraqi civilians on Sunday.

Two U.S. soldiers died in separate blasts, the U.S. military reported. The first explosion was in the Salah Ad Din province, and the second in Haditha.

Insurgents also struck a crowded Baghdad square and political offices in northern Iraq in two bombings that killed 65 Iraqis and wounded 150 others, local officials told CNN.

Earlier Sunday, a terror group with links to al Qaeda in Iraq claimed responsibility for the weekend attack that sparked the manhunt for the missing U.S. soldiers, according to a statement on the Internet.(Watch Arwa Damon report on the hunt for missing U.S. soldiers. Video)

Islamic State of Iraq -- an umbrella insurgent group that includes al Qaeda in Iraq -- said in the statement that it fought Saturday with "Crusader" forces in a "blessed operation," killing some and taking others prisoner. It was unclear from the statement if the captured soldiers were alive.

The posting thanked Allah for "the help and accurate targeting" and said further details about the attack would be released later.

Though the posting appeared on Web sites commonly used by the group -- and such statements in the past have been subsequently confirmed as true -- CNN is unable to verify the authenticity of this particular claim.

Five personnel were killed in the Saturday ambush south of Baghdad including three U.S. soldiers, military spokesman Maj. Gen. William B. Caldwell said Sunday.

An Iraqi soldier was also killed, a U.S. military officer said. The fifth person has not been identified. (Watch the dangers troops face in the "Triangle of Death" Video)

About 4,000 troops fanned out across the volatile region Sunday to search for the missing members of the U.S.-led military patrol.

Attackers struck the team of seven U.S. soldiers and an Iraqi soldier early Saturday, the military said. (Watch a general explain how the troops were killed, captured Video)

U.S. forces are using "every means" in their search for the missing troops, who are listed as duty status whereabouts unknown, Caldwell said.

"We have a soldier's creed that says, 'I will never leave a fallen comrade,' " Caldwell said. "We believe in this deeply and still make every effort available to find our three missing soldiers."

Checkpoints have been established throughout the region and aircraft including helicopters, drones and jets have been deployed in the search.

The predawn attack occurred 12 miles west of Mahmoudiya, a city south of the capital in a region that has been nicknamed the Triangle of Death. (Map)

About 4:44 a.m., a nearby unit heard explosions and attempted in vain to establish communications. Fifteen minutes later, a drone aircraft spotted two burning vehicles, according to a U.S. military statement.

Sunday's search is reminiscent of the hunt last June for two soldiers who were seized at a checkpoint in Yusufiya.

The two also were listed as duty status whereabouts unknown until their bodies were found three days later.

Forty-two U.S. troops have been killed this month in Iraq. The number of U.S. military personnel killed during the Iraq war stands at 3,384. Seven civilian contractors also have been killed.

Dozens killed in bombings

Two vehicle bombs in Iraq -- one in a small market, the other outside a mayoral office -- killed at least 65 people Sunday, government sources said.

The deadliest of Sunday's bombings killed 50 people and wounded 115 more when a suicide truck bomb erupted in northern Iraq, local health officials and a Kurdistan government spokesman said. (Watch how the rural offices fell victim to the blast Video)

The brunt of the blast destroyed the Kurdistan Democratic Party building that houses the mayor's office in the town of Makhmoor, the spokesman said. Makhmoor is about 50 miles (80 kilometers) southeast of Mosul. It is located near the borders of Irbil and Nineveh provinces, just outside the Kurdish-controlled region of northern Iraq.

The bomb exploded at a gas station, damaging several other local government offices, the Makhmoor police chief told Iraqi state TV.

The attack appears to have been orchestrated by al Qaeda, said Deputy Prime Minister Barham Salih, a Kurd.

"Because of the pressures on al Qaeda in Baghdad and in al Anbar [province], they are adapting and are moving into other areas and trying to inflict mayhem in those areas to basically force us to change tactics," Salih said.

The blast erupted as local officials from various nearby towns held a meeting, a KDP official said. It is unclear if the officials were among the dead and wounded.

The wounded were rushed to area hospitals. Hospital officials in Irbil said they received at least 12 dead people and at least 60 with injuries. At least 50 people were hospitalized at Mosul General Hospital, but there was no breakdown of the casualties.

The attack comes four days after at least 12 people were killed and 50 were wounded when a truck bomb exploded outside an Interior Ministry office in Irbil in northern Iraq, according to a Kurdish Coalition spokesman. Also, last month, suicide bombers targeted KDP offices in Zamar and Tal Iskuf, killing more than a dozen people.

The KDP and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan are the two major Kurdish political movements in Iraq.

Another Sunday blast at a market in central Baghdad killed 15 people and wounded 35 more, an Interior Ministry official said.

Three policemen were among the dead and four police officer were wounded in the attack, the official said.

The bomb detonated at al-Wathab Square, the entrance to Baghdad's Sadriya and Shorja markets. The square is often crowded with cars because it is the closest point to which vehicles can travel around the markets, which are closed to traffic because of past bombings. The markets are now surrounded by blast walls.

Sadriya market was the target of an attack last month that killed 140 people -- the worst bombing in the capital since the war began.

Other developments

• The Iraqi parliament will likely cut short its planned two-month summer break, Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister Barham Salih said Sunday. U.S. politicians had criticized the break, contending that the parliament could not afford to take an extended break given the violence and unrest in the country, among other issues. Salih said the recess will probably be shortened to a month or two weeks.

• Baghdad police found 22 unidentified bodies dumped across the Iraqi capital Sunday, an Interior Ministry official said. The bodies bring the number of corpses found across Baghdad this month to 275, according to the official.

• A spokeswoman for U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney said Sunday that the U.S. is willing to talk to Iran if discussions deal only with Iraq, where the Bush administration says Tehran is undermining the Baghdad government and sending deadly roadside bombs. (Full story)

In southeastern Baghdad, coalition forces raided several buildings and detained three men suspected of being involved in an Iranian-linked "secret cell" that uses explosively formed penetrators, or EFPs, the military said. One of the suspects is believed to be a senior leader for al Qaeda in Iraq, the military said.

• Other raids targeting al Qaeda in Iraq netted the arrests of 35 suspected terrorists: 19 near Tarmiya, north of Baghdad; 10 outside Falluja; and six in Baghdad, the military said. "We're steadily dismantling the al-Qaeda in Iraq network," said Lt. Col. Christopher Garver, spokesman for Multi-National Force-Iraq.

CNN's Mohammed Tawfeeq and Jomana Karadsheh contributed to this report.

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