BAGHDAD (AP) – A suicide bomber detonated an explosive belt Thursday inside a municipal government building west of Baghdad, killing at least 12 people attending a meeting of tribal sheiks, police said.
The attack occurred in the town of Karmah about 50 kilometers (30 miles) west of Baghdad and was the third assault against a municipal government meeting in Iraq this week.
Police said the bomber entered the building through a back door, but it was unclear how he managed to evade security for the meeting, which drew community leaders in the town where Sunnis have turned against al-Qaeda in Iraq.
U.S. and Iraqi troops rushed to the bombing site and sealed off the area, local residents said by telephone.
Ten people, including four Americans, were killed Tuesday in a bombing in a municipal council office in the Shiite area of Sadr City in Baghdad.
Two Americans were shot dead and four wounded Monday when a disgruntled official opened fire as they left a municipal building in Salman Pak about 25 kilometers (15 miles) south of the capital.
The U.S. military says violence in Iraq has dropped to its lowest level in more than four years, but attacks are continuing as Sunni and Shiite extremists try to regroup and undermine security gains.
Targets of those attacks have included local administrations which the U.S. and Iraqi authorities have been trying to shore up to maintain the security gains since last year.
Also Thursday, American troops killed two suspected al-Qaeda militants and captured 15, including two Egyptians, in raids Thursday in central and northern Iraq, the U.S. military said.
The two extremists were killed in Sharqat, about 220 kilometers (135 miles) north of Baghdad, after they refused to surrender to U.S. troops who had surrounded the building where the pair had taken refuge, the U.S. statement in a statement.
One of the dead was identified as a militant cell leader who was the target of the raid, the U.S. said. Three people were taken into custody.
The two Egyptians were detained in Abu Ghraib on the western edge of Baghdad for allegedly helping mount suicide attacks in the area, the U.S. said. A third person was seized near Abu Ghraib for allegedly providing weapons and suicide vests to Sunni militants.
The other arrests occurred during raids west of Sinjar in northern Iraq, Mosul and the Bijar area between Mosul and Baghdad, the military said.
At least 10 American soldiers have been killed this week in a spike of violence. That has pushed the monthly death toll for American troops in Iraq to at least 26, well below figures of last year but an increase over the 19 who died in May, the lowest monthly tally of the war. In all, at least 4,110 U.S. military service members have died in the Iraq war since it began in March 2003, according to an Associated Press count.