US casualties rose to their highest monthly level in a year on Thursday, and 30 police and insurgents perished in series of running gunbattles in Baqouba, a chaotic city north of Baghdad.
The US military spokesman, meanwhile, said the capital's spiraling murder rate had eased since the end of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan early this week - possibly because of the massive deployment of US troops searching for a missing soldier.
Police in Baqouba said at least 42 people were injured in the fighting there, while in Najaf, south of Baghdad, authorities temporarily closed Iraq's holiest Shi'ite shrine after receiving a tip that suicide bombers wearing explosives belts had infiltrated city.
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