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Baghdad police report 3 rebels killed in gunbattle

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BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) -- Iraqi police killed three insurgents on Thursday during a gunbattle in a northwestern Baghdad neighborhood that was a flashpoint of violence earlier this week, a city police officer said.

About 30 rebels, armed with rocket-propelled grenades and small arms, set up a false checkpoint in Baghdad's al-Ghazaliya neighborhood. After a 30-minute gunfight, police detained one of the insurgents, the officer said.

The neighborhood is the one in which 28 people were killed Tuesday in a booby-trapped house.

An anonymous caller had directed police to a house in the Ghazaliya neighborhood on Tuesday night -- saying it was an insurgent hideout, a police official said.

Explosives inside the house ignited just as police entered it, killing 28 people -- including Iraqi police and civilians, the official said.

Police stations hit

In separate incidents Thursday, four police stations were attacked in Baghdad.

Insurgents attacked two Iraqi police stations in the western part of the city. No police were wounded in the attack, the officer said, and no other details were available.

The other two Baghdad police stations were attacked 4 a.m. (8 p.m. Wednesday ET), as insurgents driving two cars fired at al-Yarouk police station. Police returned fire, and the attackers fled. Three hours later, insurgents fired on al-Kadraa police station. The police officer offered no other details.

Thursday's rebel clashes with police were the latest between Iraqi authorities and insurgents as the nation's scheduled January 30 democratic elections grow closer.

Iraqi voters are expected to choose a 275-member transitional national assembly. That body will put together a permanent constitution that will go before voters in a referendum. If the law is approved, there will be elections for a permanent government by the end of next year.

Insurgent attacks have prompted calls from many Iraqis to delay the elections, but leaders of Iraq's interim government and the United States have said they are determined to leave the date unchanged.

On Monday, the Iraqi Islamic Party, a leading voice of Iraq's minority Sunni Muslims, said it was pulling out of -- but not boycotting -- the elections, partially because of security concerns.

Suicide attack kills U.S. soldier

A suicide car bomber struck a U.S.-led coalition combat outpost in the northern city of Mosul on Wednesday, killing a U.S. soldier, said Capt. Joseph Ludvigson, a Task Force Olympia spokesman.

When a coalition patrol responded to the attack, it was hit by a second suicide car bomber and an improvised explosive device.

Following the suicide bombings, about 50 insurgents attacked the outpost with rocket-propelled grenades and small arms fire, Ludvigson said.

Fifteen soldiers were wounded in the attacks, Ludvigson said.

"Obviously it took some planning to do this, but another theory could be just to put out as many IEDs [improvised explosive devices] and [car bombs] as possible and create a kill zone," Ludvigson said.

The fatality brought the number of U.S. troops killed in the Iraq war to 1,330, including 1,046 in hostile action and 284 in nonhostile incidents, according to the U.S. military.

Other developments

  • Two U.S. soldiers were injured Wednesday when two car bombs exploded near their patrol southwest of Mosul, a U.S. military spokesman said. The same patrol later encountered several suspected insurgents planting explosive devices in the area, the spokesman said. Close air support was called in to help U.S. forces kill at least five suspected insurgents, the spokesman said.
  • Iraqi officials announced Wednesday that a key leader of a Mosul-based group affiliated with Abu Musab al-Zarqawi's terrorist network was captured last week. A statement from the interim government's communications department said Abu Marwan, 33, was arrested December 23 by multinational forces after tips from "concerned Iraqi citizens." Marwan was identified as a senior commander of the group Abu Talha.
  • CNN's Arwa Damon, Nermeen Al Mufti and Mohammad Tawfeeq contributed to this report.

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