( AP ) - The U.S. military said Saturday that a female soldier was killed by a roadside bomb south of Baghdad - at least the 90th woman service member to die since the start of the Iraq war.
The military also said U.S. forces had killed five suspects and detained ten others in two days of operations targeting al-Qaida in Iraq across central and northern parts of the country.
Iraqi police said two officers were killed and one was wounded Saturday in three separate attacks south of Baghdad, and the Basra police chief escaped an apparent assassination attempt, police said.
The deaths came a day after police found only six bodies dumped in three Iraqi cities, and no reports of shootings or bombings. Friday was only the second day in 2007 that the sectarian death toll fell below 10, according to an AP count.
On average, 56 Iraqis - civilians and security forces - have died each day so far this year.
More than four months after U.S. forces completed a 30,000-strong force buildup, the death toll for both Iraqis and Americans has fallen dramatically for two months running.
At least 3,849 American troops have been killed since the start of the war in March 2003, according to an Associated Press count.
The U.S. military did not release the name or rank of the latest casualty, saying only that she was assigned to Multi-National Division-Center and had been killed when her patrol was hit by the bomb.
U.S. commanders credit the drop in slayings to a new tactic of putting troops into neighborhood bases and of signing on disaffected former enemies as allies in the fight against the most radical elements in both the Shiite and Sunni communities, especially al-Qaida in Iraq. Anti-American Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr also has called a cease-fire, a move seen as largely responsible for the drop in sectarian murders.
Gunmen attacked an Iraqi checkpoint around 7 a.m. Saturday in Jbala, about 45 miles south of Baghdad, wounding one officer, police said. A half-hour later, a roadside bomb exploded next to a police patrol in Mahaweel, about 35 miles south of Baghdad, killing one officer and damaging his vehicle, they said.
Then at 8 a.m., police said gunmen killed a plainclothes officer in a civilian car in central Hillah, 60 miles south of Baghdad.
Farther south in Basra, Iraq's second-largest city, Police Chief Maj. Gen. Jalil Khalaf was leaving the operations command headquarters in the Shatt al-Arab hotel in Garma, a northern section of the city, around 10:30 a.m. when a bomb exploded near his vehicle, police said.
Two guards were wounded and the vehicle was damaged, police said. But neither Khalaf nor another police official traveling with him, Lt. Gen. Mohan al-Fireji, were hurt.
Basra lies 340 miles southeast of Baghdad. Tensions in the city, one of Iraq's centers of oil production, have risen as Shiite factions and Iraqi security forces battle for power, following the withdrawal of British forces to the airport on the edge of the city.
The U.S. military said one of the targets of the raids it announced Saturday was an alleged member of a terror network involved in roadside bomb attacks, mortar barrages and the planning of suicide operations in the Arab Jabour area, south of Baghdad.
When American troops arrived at the building where the man was believed to be hiding, they saw five men leaving the area, and called in helicopter gunships to fire at them, the statement said.
All five were killed, it said. The military did not say whether any of the five was the terror suspect they had sought.
U.S. troops then secured the area and found four AK-47 machine guns, two assault vests and two grenades. Another cache with three anti-aircraft weapons and a large amount of ammunition was found in an adjacent building, the military said.
In another operation in southern Baghdad, U.S. troops captured a man believed to be a car bomb cell leader, the statement said. Another suspect was detained in the same raid.
Meanwhile, American soldiers arrested six suspects south of Baqouba, 35 miles northeast of Baghdad. One of the men was wounded by a U.S. sniper after he allegedly tried to fire on the troops, the statement said. He was treated at a combat hospital and then detained for questioning, it said.
Two more suspects were captured in Mosul, 225 miles northwest of Baghdad, the military said.