Three American soldiers were killed and four wounded during a gun battle late Thursday south of Baghdad. Two Iraqi police officers were also killed and five wounded in the attack.

The attack occurred around midnight during a U.S.-led patrol in the center of the restive city of Karbala about 85 kilometers south of Baghdad. U.S. military officials say 20 to 30 heavily armed Iraqis standing on rooftops of buildings in downtown Karbala opened fire on a joint patrol of U.S. military troops and Iraqi security personnel.

A gun battle lasting about half an hour ended with three American soldiers from the 101st Airborne Division being killed and four others wounded. Two Iraqi police officers were also killed and five wounded. Eight of the attackers were said to have been killed.

A U.S. military official said the Iraqi gunmen were bodyguards of a local Shi'ite Muslim religious leader.

The situation in Karbala Friday was reported to be calm, but with greater military presence in the area.

A peacekeeping force of 9,500 troops from 21 countries is patrolling the area in and around Karbala. Polish military officials are in command of the area and recently imposed a 9:00 p.m. curfew following clashes among Shi'ite factions in Karbala.

On Friday, U.S. military officials reported that an American soldier was killed in a bomb blast in the Baghdad area and two others were wounded. No further details were given.

The latest casualties bring to 101 the number of American troops killed by hostile forces since President Bush declared an end to major combat operations on May 1.