BAGHDAD (AP) – A series of attacks on Iraqi police and volunteer patrols killed at least seven people in Baghdad and neighboring provinces on Saturday, including Diyala, where clashes erupted in villages ringing the provincial capital, officials said.

The U.S. military also announced the death of an American soldier shot Friday in northern Ninevah province.

Early Saturday in eastern Baghdad, a pair of synchronized roadside bombs targeted a passing police patrol, killing two civilians. The second bomb detonated about two minutes after the first, hitting bystanders who had gathered at the site, a police officer said, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to release details of the attack.

In the northern Baghdad neighborhood of Azamiyah, a member of a U.S.-backed volunteer patrol was killed by an explosives-rigged bag he received from a stranger who claimed to have found it in the street, according to Iraqi army Col. Riadh al-Samaraie. The explosion wounded a second security volunteer, al-Samaraie said.

Sunnis have been turning against al-Qaida in significant numbers and signing up for the volunteer security forces – partly in disgust at the militant group’s brutal tactics, and partly to seek American protection against what they see as government-backed Shiite militias. American officials say the volunteers now number about 72,000 nationwide, and as their numbers grow, they are increasingly targeted.

In southern Baghdad, gunmen attacked a checkpoint manned by another of the anti-al-Qaida groups, and three of the volunteers were wounded, police said. At a similar roadblock in Salahuddin province, about 55 miles north of the capital, gunmen in a passing car opened fire on the volunteers, killing one, police said.

And in neighboring Diyala, which has suffered from repeated al-Qaida attacks, the provincial deputy police chief resigned on Friday after al-Qaida abducted his son and threatened to kill him. Brig. Gen. Ayad Ismael quit in hopes his son – kidnapped two weeks ago – would be freed, said Diyala police Brig. Gen. Khudhayer al-Timimi.

Police officials in Ismael’s hometown of Kanan, who spoke on condition of anonymity in the town heavily infiltrated by militants from al-Qaida in Iraq, said the terror group was warning villagers in surrounding areas not to let their sons join Iraqi security forces. People on Kanan’s outskirts have left for the town center, hoping for protection from police and the local anti-al-Qaida groups, also known as “awakening councils.”

Fighting erupted Saturday in Diyala villages outside Baqouba, beginning when gunmen attacked a police checkpoint nine miles north of the provincial capital, killing three officers, a police official said.

There were also clashes about seven miles south of Baqouba between al-Qaida militants and members of the 1920 Revolution Brigades, former insurgents who joined the Sunni revolt against al-Qaida, a police officer said. The officer said the fighting lasted about an hour and casualties were unknown.

Iraqi security forces also attacked al-Qaida militants west of Baqouba, an army officer said.

In central and northern Iraq, the U.S. military said operations Friday targeting al-Qaida led to the capture of 18 suspects and left four militants dead.

In one of the raids, outside Muqdadiyah, about 60 miles north of Baghdad, the target was a group the military said attacked American forces. Three suspects were killed in a U.S. airstrike, the military said. After the airstrike, their vehicle blew up, indicating it had been storing explosives, the military said.

Near Iskandariyah, about 30 miles south of Baghdad, Iraqi and U.S. officials launched a major operation against al-Qaida and weapons smugglers, destroying two buildings used to store roadside bomb materials, the military said.

And 50 miles further south, in the overwhelmingly Shiite city of Diwaniyah, a former police chief and a police colonel were detained and accused of helping terrorists and militias in the region, Diwaniyah police said.

AP-ES-12-15-07 1410EST

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