By Mussab Al-Khairalla
BAGHDAD (Reuters) – U.S. air strikes in and around Baghdad killed senior insurgents suspected of targeting American helicopters and seven members of what the U.S. military said on Saturday was an al Qaeda cell responsible for car bombings.
In the restive western Anbar province, where U.S. forces are battling al Qaeda and other militants, a suicide car bomb killed 12 people at a police checkpoint in the city of Ramadi.
Three U.S. soldiers were killed by a roadside bomb that hit their vehicle in central Baghdad where U.S. and Iraqi forces are implementing a major security crackdown regarded as a last ditch effort to stop Iraq tearing itself apart through a civil war.
The U.S. military said an air strike on Friday north of Baghdad near the town of Taji, which is home to a major U.S. air base, destroyed weaponry including a vehicle mounted with anti-aircraft artillery.
“Coalition forces believe key terrorists were killed during the air strike … Intelligence reports indicated this network is responsible for threats to coalition aircraft,” the military said in a statement, without elaborating.
Insurgents have shot down eight helicopters in Iraq since January 20, killing 28 people, mostly soldiers. Six of those helicopters were U.S. military aircraft and two belonged to a private American security firm.
U.S. commanders say insurgents appear to be targeting helicopters to undermine the Baghdad security plan that began last month.
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