Violence continued in Iraq Saturday with a bus bomb exploding in Baghdad, and gunmen slaughtered a Kurdish family in northern Kirkuk. One U.S. soldier was killed and two others wounded by a roadside bomb. VOA's William Ide has more from Washington.
Police say the bus bomb killed at least three people when it exploded in Baghdad's predominately Shi'ite district of Sadr City. The minibus that was used for the attack was gutted by flames and its windows shattered. Five others were injured in the attack.
In Kirkuk, 250 kilometers north of Baghdad, authorities say unknown gunmen broke into a home and opened fire on a Kurdish family, killing an eight-year-old girl, her elder sister and parents.
The U.S. military said an American soldier was killed and two others wounded when a roadside bomb struck their patrol southwest of Baghdad.
Separately, coalition forces detained 13 suspected terrorists in raids in central Iraq on Saturday morning. Two of the individuals were found with grenades and military-style ammunition vests in their possession. The military says the men are suspected of having ties to al-Qaida in Iraq.
Meanwhile, in a previously unannounced visit, Australia's Defense Minister Brandan Nelson met with Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki (Saturday) in the Iraqi capital. In a statement, Iraqi officials said Mr. Maliki told Nelson that he believes the Baghdad security plan is going in the right direction, despite challenges.
Nelson arrived one day after U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates concluded a two-day visit to Iraq. While in Baghdad, Gates warned that the U.S. military presence in Iraq is not open-ended, and he urged political factions to reconcile quickly and move forward.
The trips by the two defense ministers come at a particularly violent time in Iraq. More than 200 people have been killed since Wednesday in a series of massive car bombings. As a result, the so-called surge in U.S. troops has come under increased scrutiny in the United States.
U.S. Senator Harry Reid said earlier this week that he told President Bush the war in Iraq is lost.
Speaking in the midwestern state of Michigan Friday, President Bush expressed confidence in the plan and in the military commander carrying it out. "General (David) Petraeus has been carrying out this new strategy for just over two months. He reports that it will be later this year that we can judge the potential of success," he said.
The United States is currently increasing the number of American troops in Iraq in a bid to stabilize Baghdad and other violent areas of the country. The Pentagon says the 30,000 troops being deployed to Iraq as part of the troop surge will remain there until at least the end of August.