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Iraq suicide bomb kills 2 U.S. soldiers, 3 Iraqis

By Muhanad Mohammed and Matt Robinson

BAGHDAD (Reuters) - A suicide car bomb hit a joint U.S.-Iraqi military patrol in eastern Iraq on Friday, killing two U.S. soldiers and at least three Iraqis as the U.S. prepares to end combat operations.

There were conflicting reports on casualties from the blast in the town of Jalawla, 115 km (70 miles) northeast of Baghdad, when a car packed with explosives detonated alongside the joint patrol, near a market.

The U.S. military said in a statement that two U.S. soldiers, one Iraqi policeman and two civilians were killed. Six U.S. soldiers and around 24 other people were wounded, it said.

"U.S. soldiers provided immediate medical attention to the wounded soldiers and evacuated them to a nearby military post using ground vehicles," the statement said.

Iraqi security sources told Reuters that at least six people had died, including at least two U.S. soldiers. Two sources put the death toll at eight.

A spike in violence over the past two months since an inconclusive March parliamentary election has underscored the fragility of security improvements in Iraq.

Overall violence has dropped sharply since the height of sectarian warfare in 2006-2007, but bombings and shootings remain common, frequently targeting Iraqi security forces and Sunni ex-insurgents who switched sides to fight Sunni Islamist al Qaeda.

U.S. forces have pulled out of Iraqi cities and are working to formally end combat operations by September 1, cutting the U.S. military force from just under 90,000 to 50,000.

Washington says it will stick to the timetable for withdrawal despite the failure of Iraq's Shi'ite, Sunni and Kurdish political factions to form a government, more than three months since a vote Iraqis hoped would bring stability.

Iraq's new parliament is due to convene on Monday.

In Baghdad on Friday, a roadside bomb killed two civilians and wounded nine others in the southern district of Doura, police said. A car bomb in the capital late on Thursday killed four people and wounded 10.

On Wednesday, two civilians died when a suicide bomber on a motorcycle rammed into a U.S. army patrol near the small town of Muqdadiya, 80 km (50 miles) northeast of Baghdad.

(Writing by Matt Robinson; Editing by Mark Heinrich)

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