The U.S. military says it launched pre-dawn raids south of Baghdad Friday to hunt for militants believed to be linked to the kidnapping of two American soldiers.
The military says helicopters dropped 600 soldiers into the villages of Owesap and Betra, while warplanes dropped two bombs to block possible escape routes. Some 150 Iraqi soldiers also took part in the operation.
The two American soldiers have been missing since insurgents ambushed their patrol May 12 near Mahmoudiya. Four U.S. troops and an Iraqi interpreter were killed in that attack. The body of a third kidnapped soldier was found nearly two weeks later in the Euphrates River.
In other news, a roadside bomb blast in central Baghdad killed one person and wounded four others.
Separately, the U.S. military says coalition forces killed two terrorists and detained 12 suspects in operations Friday targeting terrorist networks in central and northern Iraq.
In other developments, the commander of British forces in southern Iraq says there has been a dramatic drop in attacks in the region, since Britain withdrew its troops from the southern city of Basra. Major General Graham Binns says the number of attacks is about one tenth what it was before the September withdrawal.
Some information for this report was provided by AFP, AP and Reuters.