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U.S. military says 25 insurgents killed in Iraqi province

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  • NEW: Two U.S. soldiers are killed Wednesday in Iraq, the military says
  • NEW: Fourteen people die in bombings in Baghdad and in northern Iraq
  • Three-day operation near Baquba kills 25 insurgents, U.S. military says
  • U.S. official: Troops in Baquba have rooted out al Qaeda "shadow government"
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BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) -- American-led coalition forces battling insurgents in Iraq's Diyala province near Baghdad killed 25 insurgents in a three-day operation, the U.S. military said Wednesday.

The effort, which lasted from Saturday to Monday, occurred near Mukhisa on the northeastern outskirts of Baquba -- capital of Diyala -- the sprawling province north and east of Baghdad that has become a refuge for al Qaeda in Iraq and a major battleground in the Iraq war.

The military said this latest drive was carried out "in support of but not directly related" to Operation Arrowhead Ripper, a massive two-week-old offensive in the Baquba area. Arrowhead Ripper is one of the U.S. military undertakings against militants in the "belts" around Baghdad. Iraqi security forces also are involved.

At least 60 al Qaeda operatives have been killed, 134 have been detained, 45 weapons caches have been discovered and 96 bombs have been destroyed in Arrowhead Ripper, the military said.

In a Pentagon briefing on the operations Tuesday, Brig. Gen. Perry Wiggins said troops in Baquba have "rooted out what could only be described as a shadow government set up by al Qaeda."

"We have found a courthouse, jail and torture houses, which provide an indicator of the type of inhuman justice one could expect of al Qaeda," he said, also pointing to the clearing of more than 120 "deeply buried" roadside bombs and many "booby-trapped" houses.

In the latest fighting, near Mukhisa, the military said three armed men at one side of the Diyala River fired at coalition troops patrolling along the other side.

Coalition troops "returned fire and the enemy fire subsided, but enemy reinforced its numbers and escalated to include rocket-propelled grenades," a military statement said.

An organized force of militants in a palm grove was the source of the fire, the military said.

As fighters and troops traded fire, a mosque broadcast exhortations to residents to rise up against the troops and "the chants were later replaced by a voice that seemed to be giving orders."

"Coalition forces fired and maneuvered on the enemy and called in close air support from a fixed-wing aircraft," the military said.

In addition to the deaths of "an estimated 25 terrorists," five people were detained, and weapons caches were found, the military said. Two insurgents were injured.

Offensives also are taking place in Anbar province west of Baghdad and the region southeast of the capital to eradicate a strong insurgent presence there and keep militants from launching attacks into Baghdad. The onslaughts began last month after the completion of the U.S. troop escalation known as "the surge."

On Wednesday, coalition troops killed 10 insurgents and detained six others during a fierce fight in Anbar, the U.S. military said. Troops in the Anbar raid were hunting down a suspected al Qaeda in Iraq leader "known to be responsible for the torture of Iraqis civilians" backing the coalition, the military said. Ground troops and air support eventually subdued the insurgents, it said.

Meanwhile, some Iraqis have criticized military actions in Diyala.

The Iraqi Islamic Party, a major Sunni political party, on Monday demanded that U.S. and Iraqi militaries halt a security operation aimed at rooting out insurgents in the Baquba area.

They cited the destruction of more than 150 houses and the killing of more than 350 residents "whose bodies are still beneath the rubble." The party said the operation also has contributed to interruptions in basic services, including water, electricity and medicine.

U.S. and Iraqi authorities last week said they were investigating claims that a June 21 U.S. air attack on insurgents in a Diyala village killed civilians, including villagers defending their community.

The incident occurred in a village southwest of Khalis near Baquba, the U.S. military said. The military said 17 people were killed in the strike.

Other developments

  • Two U.S. soldiers were killed Wednesday in Iraq, the military said. A Task Force Lightning soldier died and another was injured when a helicopter went down in Nineveh province in northern Iraq. It is unknown if the copter was shot down or crashed because of mechanical problems. Also, a soldier from Multi-National Division-Baghdad was killed during "combat operations" in southern Baghdad, the military said. The number of U.S. military deaths in the Iraq war stands at 3,580. Seven civilian contractors to the U.S. military also have died since the 2003 invasion.
  • A suicide car bomb struck an Iraq national police checkpoint Wednesday in southern Baghdad's Dora district, killing four Iraqi police and wounding eight others, the Iraqi Interior Ministry said. In western Baghdad, one Iraqi soldier died and three others were wounded when a roadside bomb hit an Iraqi army patrol, the Interior Ministry said.
  • Five people were killed, including three police, and 10 others were wounded Wednesday in the northern city of Baiji when a suicide car bomb struck a police patrol, police in Tikrit said. The largely Sunni town is more than 110 miles (177 kilometers) north of Baghdad in Salaheddin province. Also in Salaheddin, four Iraqi national police were killed and two were wounded when a roadside bomb hit their patrol in central Samarra, police said.
  • The Iraqi Cabinet on Tuesday approved a draft version of a plan to distribute the country's vast oil wealth among the major ethnic and religious factions, a government spokesman said. Ali al-Dabbagh said the draft now goes to parliament for debate, where sectarian wrangling could still sideline the proposal.
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    CNN's Mohammed Tawfeeq contributed to this report.

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