Sunni Arab militants killed 14 Shi'ite militiamen and a policeman Thursday in a clash southeast of Baghdad, another sign of rising tensions among Iraq
's rival ethnic and religious communities. The US military reported three more American soldiers died in combat.
The Shi'ite-Sunni fighting occurred after police and Shi'ite militiamen loyal to radical cleric Muqtada al-Sadr
raided a house in Nahrawan, 25 kilometers (15 miles) southeast of the capital, to free a militiaman taken hostage by Sunni militants, according to Amer al-Husseini, an aide to al-Sadr.
After freeing the hostage and capturing two militants, the Shi'ite militiamen were ambushed by the Sunnis on their way out of the religiously mixed town, al-Husseini said. Police Lt. Thair Mahmoud said 14 others, 12 militiamen and two policemen, were wounded.
Both Shi'ites and Sunnis have accused one another of kidnappings and assassinations, especially in religiously mixed Baghdad neighborhoods and farming communities south and east of the capital. Majority Shi'ites and minority Kurds generally support the Shi'ite-dominated government, while Sunni Arabs dominate the ranks of the insurgents.