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U.S: More than 40 insurgents die in Iraq raids

But Sunni group accuses coalition troops of killing civilians

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BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) -- U.S.-led coalition forces killed more than 40 insurgents in weekend raids in Iraq, including an insurgent leader believed to have played a role in last month's downing of an American helicopter, the U.S. military said Monday.

Weapons smuggler Abu Mustafa was among those killed in two villages south of Baghdad, the military said.

Twelve suspected terrorists also were captured, it said.

But a leading Sunni religious group accused the U.S. and Iraqi military of killing civilians -- not insurgents -- in one of the raids.

U.S. and Iraqi forces were searching for Abu Mustafa due to "his leadership role" in the April 1 downing of an AH-64 helicopter in Yusifiyah, the military said. Two U.S. soldiers died when the copter was shot down then.

A video, dated April 2, showed what appeared to be a helicopter ablaze and insurgents dragging what seemed to be a burning body away from the wreckage.

The U.S. military said Abu Mustafa "facilitated the movement of missiles and rockets within the al Qaeda terrorist network."

Abu Mustafa and an associate were killed in the first raid Saturday night in Latifiyah, a village about 15 miles (25 kilometers) southeast of Baghdad, the military said.

On Sunday, coalition forces killed 15 al Qaeda-related terrorists in Latifiyah and 25 suspected insurgents in Yusifiyah, according to the military.

In Yusifiyah, terrorists used a truck to break through a security perimeter, but three suspects inside the vehicle were killed, according to the military. One of them was wearing a suicide vest, the military said.

Two women -- one of whom was pregnant -- and two children inside a house with insurgents in Latifiyah were wounded by shrapnel, the military said. They were taken to military hospitals for treatment.

A woman and teenage girl also were wounded in the Yusifiyah raids, the military said. Insurgents fired on a helicopter taking the two females to a hospital for treatment, the military added.

The Association of Muslim Scholars, the Sunni religious group, issued a statement Monday accusing the Iraqi and U.S. military of killing 25 civilians in the fighting in Latifiyah.

"The association holds the occupiers and the Iraqi government all responsible for this brutal atrocity, and they are responsible for the safety of the detainees, especially women and children," the group said.

Seven U.S. troops killed

Six U.S. troops were killed Sunday in three separate incidents in Iraq and one was killed Saturday, the U.S. military said Monday.

Two U.S. soldiers died Sunday when their helicopter was shot down during the raid in Yusifiyah, where the insurgent leader was killed, a military statement said.

In Anbar province, west of the capital, two U.S. Marines with Regimental Combat Team 7 were killed Sunday "due to enemy action," according to the military.

Two American soldiers died Sunday when a roadside bomb exploded in east Baghdad, the military said.

A Marine with the 2nd Marine Division, II Marine Expeditionary Force, was killed Saturday during combat operations in Anbar province, the military said.

The weekend deaths brought to 2,437 the number of U.S. troops killed in the Iraq war. Seven American civilian contractors of the military also have died in the conflict.

Meanwhile, four British soldiers were wounded early Monday in a mortar attack on a military outpost in southern Iraq, said a British military source in the southern city of Basra.

The mortar barrage hit Camp Naji in Amara, about 190 miles (305 kilometers) southeast of Baghdad.

One of the soldiers was airlifted to a military hospital for treatment. The other three soldiers received minor wounds, the source said.

Two British soldiers died Saturday in a roadside bomb attack north of Basra, a British military source said.

Four teachers gunned down

Gunmen killed four teachers Monday near Balad Ruz, northeast of Baghdad, an Iraqi official said.

The teachers were traveling to work in a minibus Monday morning when the gunmen stopped their vehicle in the town about 50 miles (80 kilometers) northeast of Baghdad, said an official with the Diyala Joint Coordination Center.

The gunmen forced seven teachers and the minibus driver from the vehicle and shot four of the teachers. The other instructors and the driver were allowed to leave, the official said.

The attack came as the trial of former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein and seven co-defendants resumed Monday after a three-week delay.

The ousted leader was formally charged with murder, torture of women and children and the illegal arrest of 399 people in a crackdown against Shiites in 1982. (Full story )

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