(Reuters) A U.S. air strike killed about 25 suspected Iraqi militants linked to Iranian-backed Shi'ite militias on Friday and another 12 al Qaeda fighters were killed in separate raids, the U.S. military said.
U.S. troops said they were engaged in a heavy firefight west of Baquba , capital of volatile Diyala province north of Baghdad, during a dawn raid against a commander it said was linked to the Iranian Revolutionary Guards' elite Qods force.
The U.S. military also said it had killed 12 suspected al Qaeda in Iraq fighters during separate strikes in Baghdad and Yusifiya north of the capital on Friday.
In Salahuddin next to Diyala , police said Sheikh Muawiya Jebara , a Sunni Arab tribal leader who had worked with U.S. forces in forming local police units to fight Sunni Islamist al Qaeda, had died of wounds suffered in a bomb attack on Thursday.
U.S. commanders in Iraq have often accused Shi'ite Iran of training and arming Shi'ite militias in Iraq and supplying them with weapons, including rockets and roadside bombs, by far the biggest killers of U.S. troops in Iraq.
Tehran denies the charge and blames the sectarian violence in Iraq, in which tens of thousands of Iraqis have died, on the 2003 U.S.-led invasion to topple Saddam Hussein.