BAGHDAD, Iraq – At least 23 Iraqis were killed in bomb blasts and other violence Monday, including a car bomb that exploded near the Polish Embassy, and two U.S. service members also were killed in separate incidents, authorities said.

The U.S. military announced the deaths of a Marine killed in combat Monday in Al Anbar province and a soldier killed Friday near Beiji . At least 3,815 U.S. personnel have been killed since the start of the Iraq war in 2003, according to the W eb site icasualties.org, which tracks military deaths.

The U.S. command says violence in Iraq has dropped overall since President Bush ordered the deployment of nearly 30,000 additional troops this year. But officers concede there has been a recent spike in attacks by Sunni insurgents timed to coincide with the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.

In a separate matter causing strain in U.S. and Iraqi relations, The Associated Press reported that Iraqi authorities have asked the U.S. government to hand over the Blackwater USA security guards involved in a shooting last month to face possible trial in an Iraqi court.

Iraqi officials also want the U.S. government to pay $8 million to the families of each of the 17 people it says were killed when the private security company’s guards opened fire at a busy intersection Sept. 16, and to sever all ties with the company within six months. Blackwater says its guards were ambushed while protecting a U.S. Embassy convoy, but Iraqi officials concluded they fired without provocation.

The demands are contained in an Iraqi government report obtained by AP, one of several probes into an incident that has raised questions about the use of largely unregulated contractors to protect U.S. officials.

Aides to Prime Minister Nouri al- Maliki were not aware of the demands reported by AP. In the worst of Monday’s deadly attacks, a suicide truck bomber killed 13 people and injured 26 in an attack on the Dijlah police station near Samarra, a mostly Sunni city about 60 miles north of Baghdad. The blast ripped through stores and cars, and most of the casualties were civilians, police said.

In Baghdad, four explosions shook the Polish Embassy in the city’s upscale Karada neighborhood, the acting Polish ambassador, Waldemar Figaj, told Reuters.

news agency. He described the first blast as “very, very powerful,” but said no damage was caused and that “I don’t believe we were targeted. We just felt the impact.”

An official at the Iraqi Interior Ministry said a car bomb exploded in a nearby street, and the other blasts heard were likely the result of U.S. fire in the city’s southern Dora neighborhood. The U.S. military said its aircraft dropped a series of bombs into an area of dense palm groves along Dora’s fringes that has been used to ambush and shell U.S. and Iraqi forces. No casualties were reported, the military said in a statement.

Polish Ambassador Edward Pietrzyk escaped an assassination attempt last Wednesday that killed one of his bodyguards. Poland is a staunch supporter of U.S. forces in Iraq and has vowed to maintain its 900-strong presence in the south despite the attack on its envoy. But the country plans to move its diplomatic mission inside the fortified Green Zone for safety.

Also Monday, U.S.-led forces killed five gunmen and detained three suspects after coming under attack during a raid Monday targeting Shiite militants said to be involved in kidnappings and bombings using sophisticated armor piercing rounds, the military said. Iraqi police said the raid happened in Baghdad’s Sadr City, the vast Shiite district that is a stronghold of militants loyal to anti-American cleric Muqtada al- Sadr.

Police in Baghdad also announced that they have recovered the bodies of seven men shot execution-style, a hallmark of sectarian killings.

Times staff writer Saif Hameed contributed to this report.

AP-NY-10-08-07 1933EDT


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