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Nine U.S. troops die in Iraq

Story Highlights

• NEW: Soldier killed by small-arms fire; 2nd dies away from battle
• NEW: Saturday's nine deaths bring June's toll to 79
• Four soldiers killed by one roadside bomb near Baghdad
• U.S. military reports deaths of seven suspected militants linked to al Qaeda
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BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) -- Nine U.S. troops were killed in Iraq on Saturday, bringing the U.S. military death toll so far in June to 79, the military reported.

Four of the troops were killed when a roadside bomb exploded near a coalition vehicle northwest of Baghdad on Saturday. An Iraqi interpreter riding with the soldiers was wounded.

The soldiers were with Multi-National Division-Baghdad, which has been conducting raids in the area north of the Iraqi capital to destroy insurgent safe havens, the military added.

Two other U.S. soldiers assigned to Multi-National Division-Baghdad were killed and three others were wounded when their unit was hit by a roadside bomb and small arms fire in eastern Baghdad early Saturday, the military said.

In the past month, the unit has been looking for cells that build homemade bombs. (Watch the military carry out dangerous operations Video)

Another Multi-National Division - Baghdad soldier died when a patrol was attacked with small arms fire during combat operations in southern Baghdad.

Also Saturday, a U.S. airman died after a homemade bomb went off near his vehicle in Tikrit, north of Baghdad.

A Multi-National Division - Baghdad Soldier died of non-battle-related causes. The military said the incident is under investigation.

Simultaneous operations are being carried out as a part of Operation Phantom Thunder, a "powerful crackdown to defeat extremists in Iraq," according to a U.S. military statement. U.S. and Iraqi military forces are focusing on insurgents in "Baghdad belts," a U.S. military commander told CNN this week.

Since the war began, 3,549 U.S. military personnel have died. Seven civilian employees of the Defense Department have also been killed.

U.S.: Seven with al Qaeda ties killed

The U.S. military also reported Saturday that seven insurgents suspected of ties to al Qaeda were killed and 10 others captured by coalition forces in several operations across Iraq Friday and Saturday.

Three others suspected to have links to Iran were arrested in Baghdad Saturday, the military said.

U.S. troops thwarted an apparent suicide bombing attempt during a raid to capture a senior al Qaeda in Iraq leader in Tikrit Saturday, the military said.

As troops were securing a building, a vehicle with two men inside sped toward them, ignoring orders to stop. Troops fired on the vehicle, making it crash into a fence. They found the two men dead inside and a bomb in the back seat, the military said.

Five men were killed after they fired on coalition forces who were searching for al Qaeda militants in four buildings east of Falluja on Saturday, the military said. Forces destroyed ammunition, hand grenades and mortar rounds found inside one building.

A man believed to be a member of a Baghdad car bomb network, who is also suspected of providing foreign fighters and weapons to militants, was captured south of Baghdad Saturday, the military said.

A Kurdish extremist suspected of helping with al Qaeda attacks in northern Iraq was captured in a raid in Mosul on Friday, the military said. He is also suspected of helping move foreign fighters and conducting financial and media operations for al Qaeda, the military said. Four other suspected terrorists were also captured nearby, the military said.

Three suspected terrorists with ties to Iran were detained during a raid in Baghdad's Sadr City district Saturday morning. Iranian surrogates are suspected of smuggling technically advanced and powerful roadside bombs into Iraq, the military said.

The U.S. military announced Saturday that Iraqi Army soldiers killed 11 suspected al Qaeda gunmen and a person suspected of planting bombs on Wednesday. This came after an Iraqi Army checkpoint near Khalis was attacked.

The U.S. military reported on Friday that U.S. and Iraqi troops killed at least 68 al Qaeda militants in Iraq's Diyala province between Tuesday and Friday, including 17 who were killed by U.S. attack helicopters armed with missiles. The military said the attack was part of Operation Arrowhead Ripper, an anti-insurgent offensive being carried out in and around Baquba, Diyala's provincial capital. It is part of Operation Phantom Thunder.

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Graveside services are held Friday in Rock Island, Illinois, for Pfc. Michael P. Pittman, who was killed June 15 in Iraq.

SPECIAL REPORT

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