BAGHDAD — Insurgents took aim at volunteer security forces working alongside U.S. and Iraqi troops Saturday, killing at least three and injuring 13 others in a string of gunfire and bomb attacks.
Also Saturday, U.S. forces reported the death of an American soldier, and Iraqi officials said they had arrested four suspects in connection with a bomb blast in southern Iraq last week that killed 28 people.
South of Baghdad, the U.S. Army's 3rd Infantry Division announced the launch of a new offensive aimed at driving Al Qaeda in Iraq forces out of areas in Babil province. The operation follows the assassination last week of the Babil provincial police commander, Gen. Qais Hamza Mamouri, just hours after the commander of the 3rd Infantry Division had praised him for standing up to insurgents and militiamen.
The operation will establish a new patrol base for U.S. and Iraqi troops in the area around Iskandariya, about 25 miles south of the capital, and supplement troops with so-called concerned local citizen fighters. The volunteers are paid a daily fee of about $10 to bolster security in former insurgent strongholds, and they are credited with a turnaround that has led to sharp drops in attacks on civilians and troops.
But the attacks on volunteers Saturday showed how vulnerable the new allies are. In northeast Baghdad's Adhamiya neighborhood, a former Sunni insurgent stronghold, two volunteers died and 10 were injured when a bomb exploded next to their checkpoint. A shooting attack at a volunteer checkpoint in the southern neighborhood of Dora left three guards injured.
About 50 miles north of Baghdad, one volunteer was killed when gunmen raked his checkpoint with bullets.
Also Saturday, a suicide car bomber detonated his vehicle in Baghdad's Bayaa neighborhood, killing one Iraqi civilian.
In the southern city of Amarah, where 28 people died in a bombing Wednesday, police said they had arrested four suspects who admitted involvement. They gave no additional details.
The Amarah attack bore the hallmark of Al Qaeda in Iraq and has raised fears that as British troops withdraw from the south, the area will become more vulnerable to violence. Britain handed security control of Maysan province and its capital, Amarah, to Iraqi officials in April. Today, the British are scheduled to hand over security for neighboring Basra province, the last in their control, to the Iraqis.
In Nineveh province in the north, a U.S. soldier died Friday of gunshot wounds, the military announced.
The death brought to at least 3,892 the number of American troops killed in Iraq since the war began in March 2003, according to icasualties.org. This month's death toll so far, 11, is less than half that registered in the first two weeks of November.
Special correspondents in Baghdad contributed to this report.