Seven suspected al Qaeda insurgents were killed in clashes with U.S. forces in a largely Sunni Arab province of Iraq, the US military said on Monday.
Iraqi police in the area said Iraqi forces allied with the Americans were involved and that clashes continued throughout Sunday in the town of Dhuluiya, 70 km (45 miles) north of Baghdad. They put the death toll of the gunmen at nine.
Lieutenant Colonel Mohammed Jassim, a police official in Dhuluiya, said the fighting began early on Sunday and resulted in the arrest of 17 suspected militants, four of them non-Iraqi Arabs. Four suspected insurgents were wounded.
"Coalition forces killed seven armed terrorists and detained one suspect during an early morning operation to capture a suicide bombing cell hiding in a palm grove near Balad," said US press officer Lieutenant John Brimley.
"One suspected terrorist was detained and confirmed that the remaining terrorists were armed with five suicide vests," he said.
He could not immediately confirm Iraqi forces were involved, but most operations against al Qaeda this year have been jointly Iraqi- and US-led.
Last Wednesday, a teenage suicide bomber killed five people inside a mosque in Dhuluiya.
The violence in Iraq unleashed by the U.S.-led invasion to topple Saddam Hussein in 2003 has eased but a recent spate of big suicide bombings has demonstrated the ability of militants to still carry out large scale attacks.