Baghdad American forces freed 42 kidnapped Iraqis - some of whom had been hung from ceilings and tortured for months - in a raid Sunday on an al-Qaida hideout north of Baghdad, the U.S. military said.
Military officials said the operation, launched on tips from residents, showed that Iraqis in the turbulent Diyala province were turning against Sunni insurgents and beginning to trust U.S. troops.
"The people in Diyala are speaking up against al-Qaida," said Maj. Gen. William Caldwell, the top U.S. military spokesman in Iraq.
Elsewhere in Diyala, a U.S. soldier was killed when an explosion hit his vehicle and a second soldier was killed in an explosion in Baghdad, the military said. The deaths brought the number of troops killed this month to at least 102, putting May on pace to become the deadliest month for Americans here in more than 2 1/2 years.
In other violence, a barrage of mortar rounds struck houses in a Shiite village just northeast of Baghdad, killing three women and a child and wounding seven other children, Baghdad police said.
A suicide car bomber attacked an army checkpoint in Musayyib, about 40 miles south of Baghdad, killing two Iraqi soldiers.
Gunmen also killed the renowned Baghdad calligrapher Khalil Mohammed al-Zahawi in a drive-by shooting in a Shiite dominated area in eastern Baghdad, police said. Al-Zahawi, 52, who was also a lecturer at Baghdad University, was waiting for a taxi on a main road when the gunmen sped past.
U.S. military officials have said they expected insurgents to step up attacks as U.S.-led forces worked to crack down on violence in Baghdad and the surrounding areas during their 14-week-old security operation.
As part of the crackdown, the military sent 3,000 more U.S. troops to Diyala, a turbulent province north of Baghdad that has seen heavy fighting in recent weeks. Sunday's raid, the military said, was a sign that the increase was working.
Some of the captives suffered broken bones. Some had been held for as long as four months. One said he was just 14 years old, Caldwell said.
The 42 freed Iraqis marked the largest number of captives ever found in a single al-Qaida prison, he said.