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Iraq Transition

Iraqi insurgents warn: Stop search for U.S. troops

Story Highlights

• Group says soldiers' safety will be jeopardized if search continues
• CNN cannot verify claim made on site frequently used by militants
• 4,000 soldiers look for missing troops after 5 killed in attack on U.S. patrol
• Insurgent attacks in Baghdad and Baquba leave 12 dead
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BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) -- The Islamic State of Iraq -- a Sunni insurgent coalition that includes al Qaeda in Iraq -- issued a statement Monday saying it is holding three American soldiers and warning the U.S. military to call off its search.

"Your soldiers are in our hands. If you want your soldiers' safety, do not search for them," the Internet posting said.

The soldiers went missing after an ambush Saturday on their military convoy in a volatile region south of Baghdad. Four U.S. soldiers and an Iraqi soldier were killed in the attack outside Mahmoudiya. (Watch soldiers search fields for missing U.S. soldiers. Video)

In the posting, the coalition warned "the battle between you and us is a long one."

The statement implied the attack might have been revenge for "the killings, the displacement, the detentions, the prisons of Abu Ghraib and Bucca," and the rape and murder of a local teenager and the murder of her family last year.

While the insurgent group offered no proof that it is holding the soldiers, U.S. military spokesman Maj. Gen. William Caldwell said Monday that the military believes al Qaeda in Iraq or an affiliated group is responsible for their abduction.

"This assessment is based on highly credible intelligence information," Caldwell said.

He said thousands of U.S. and Iraqi soldiers -- backed by everything from air support to dog teams -- are searching for the soldiers.

"I cannot promise you that these efforts will produce the results we all are praying for," Caldwell said Monday. "But what I can promise you, the American people, and particularly the families of these missing men, is that we are doing everything we can to find these brave and courageous soldiers."

On Sunday, Caldwell said the search team includes at least 4,000 U.S. troops.

The Islamic State of Iraq posted a statement Sunday claiming responsibility for Saturday's ambush, saying it killed and captured U.S. soldiers. (Watch the dangers troops face in the "Triangle of Death" Video)

CNN cannot independently verify the claims, which were posted on Web sites frequently used by the insurgent coalition.

Attacks continue in Baghdad

Attacks in Baghdad and Baquba on Monday left 12 Iraqis dead and 24 wounded, according to police and government officials.

In addition, three U.S. soldiers, one Marine and one U.S. airman were killed Monday in Iraq in three incidents, the U.S. military said.

Two U.S. soldiers were killed and four were wounded when their dismounted patrol was attacked by small arms fire southeast of Baghdad, the U.S. military said.

Another U.S. soldier was killed and four were wounded when a roadside bomb struck their patrol in the northeast part of the capital. In separate incidents, a Marine was killed while conducting combat operations in Iraq's restive Anbar province, and a roadside bomb in southern Baghdad killed one airman and wounded three others.

The soldiers' deaths bring to 49 the number of U.S. troops killed this month in Iraq; 3,400 U.S. military personnel have been killed since the war began more than four years ago. Seven civilian contractors also have died.

A mortar attack on the Za'afaraniya neighborhood in southeastern Baghdad killed at least three people and wounded nine, an Interior Ministry official said.

Around 1 p.m. (5 a.m. ET), a parked car exploded along Palestine Street in eastern Baghdad, killing three people and wounding seven, the official said.

One police officer was among the dead, and three police officers were among the wounded.

About five minutes later, another parked car exploded in the central Baghdad neighborhood of Karada, killing three civilians and wounding five, the official said.

In Baquba, north of Baghdad in Diyala province, a roadside bomb struck an Iraqi police patrol, killing three police officers and wounding three civilians, a police official said.

Media ban

Over the weekend, Iraq's interior ministry banned the media from showing the aftermath of bombings.

It is an effort by Iraq's government to control some news outlets that are trying to ignite sectarian tensions by showing "the blood of the people," government spokesman Ali Dabbagh said.

"It is a war against the terrorists and they are using the media, they are using the camera [as] part of their war against Iraqis, so we should not allow them to use this one," Dabbagh said. "We apologize for the, probably, the effect on a good people, on a good media."

Dabbagh said it is a temporary measure, but could not say when the ban would be lifted.

Other developments

• Baghdad police found 18 unidentified bodies dumped across the capital Monday, an Interior Ministry official said, adding that 293 corpses have been found across the capital so far this month.

• Coalition forces detained 11 "suspected terrorists" on Monday, including "one individual suspected of conspiring directly with al Qaeda in Iraq senior leaders." He was picked up in Baghdad, the military said. Other raids took place in Ramadi, Hit and Karmah, all west of the Iraqi capital.

• 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 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.

• 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)

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

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