U.S. and Iraqi troops launched a dawn assault Monday on another town near the Syrian border and killed 37 insurgents, a U.S. statement said, while the interior ministry reported that a car bomb detonated outside a gate leading into the fortified Green Zone in central Baghdad, killing three foreigners.
Operation Steel Curtain entered a new phase when U.S. and Iraqi forces moved into the Euphrates River valley town of Obeidi, about 300 kilometers (185 miles) west of Baghdad.
"Five targets were struck by coalition air strikes resulting in an estimated 37 insurgents killed. The insurgents were engaging coalition forces with small arms fire at the time of the strikes," the statement said. "Preliminary reports indicate an estimated 25 insurgents have already been captured and are currently detained."
The troops assigned to the 2nd Marine Division have already fought their way through two neighboring towns, Husaybah and Karabilah. U.S. forces believe the border towns have been an entry point for insurgent fighters and weapons into Iraq.
The explosion in Baghdad killed two South Africans and wounded three others working for a U.S. State Department security contractor DynCorp International, U.S. embassy spokeswoman Elizabeth Colton said. The blast was followed by small arms fire and billowing black smoke that could be seen across the city.
The blast apparently targeted a convoy of sport utility vehicles leaving the Green Zone, the headquarters of the Iraqi government and U.S. forces in Iraq.
The blast occurred near the Iranian embassy, about 100 meters (yards) north of the Green Zone gate, which is surrounded with blast walls. Two Apache attack helicopters were soon flying over the scene as the smoke cleared and sporadic gunfire continued in the area.
On most days in Baghdad at least one car bomb detonates in the city, mostly targeting Iraqi security services or U.S. troops. Direct attacks on the Green Zone are relatively rare, the AP says.
In the western town of Ramadi, a Sunni stronghold, a road-side bomb detonated shortly after a U.S. patrol passed by, destroying two buses and killing five civilians and wounding 20 others, police Capt. Nassir Al-Alousi said.
The attacks followed demands by Sunni Arab politicians for an end to U.S. and Iraqi military operations, claiming they threaten Sunni participation in next month's elections, a key U.S. goal. The U.S. command also announced on Sunday the deaths of three more American troops.