BAGHDAD, Iraq (AP) _ Ten U.S. troops were killed Wednesday in four separate incidents in Iraq, and a mortar attack that killed at least eight people and wounded dozens in a secondhand goods market was followed closely by a suicide bombing in Baghdad's mainly Shiite district of Sadr City, authorities said.
``Our thoughts and prayers go out to those family members who have lost loved ones today,'' said U.S. military spokesman Lt. Col. Christopher Garver. The military confirmed that the 10 Americans had died but gave no further details.
The deaths raised to at least 2,917 the number of members of the U.S. military who have died since the beginning of the war in 2003, according to a count by The Associated Press. So far in December, 28 American servicemen have died.
The two mortar rounds landed and exploded in the Haraj Market in a mixed Shiite-Sunni area in northern Baghdad, said police officers Ali Mutab and Mohammed Khayoun, who provided the casualty totals.
About 25 minutes later, a suicide bomber on a bus in Sadr City detonated explosives hidden in his clothing, killing two people and wounding 15, police 1st Lt. Thaer Mahmoud said.
It appeared to be the first attack by suspected Sunni Arab insurgents on the large slum since Nov. 23, when a bombing and mortar attack killed 215 people in the deadliest single attack since the Iraq war began more than three years ago.
The latest eruptions of Iraq's unrelenting sectarian violence came hours before the release of a study by the Iraq Study Group, a blue-ribbon panel headed by former Secretary of State James A. Baker III and former Rep. Lee Hamilton, D-Ind.
The report recommended new and enhanced diplomacy so that U.S. combat forces can ``begin to move out of Iraq'' as soon as that can be done responsibly.
``The situation in Iraq is grave and deteriorating,'' the commission warned in the report, portions of which were obtained by The Associated Press.
The report called for the Bush administration to try to engage Syria and Iran in diplomacy as part of an effort to stabilize Iraq and allow withdrawal of most combat troops by early 2008.
The report warned that if the situation continues to deteriorate, there is a risk of a ``slide toward chaos (that) could trigger the collapse of Iraq's government and a humanitarian catastrophe.''
Some Iraqis, while critical of U.S. strategy in Iraq, said they feared any new policy would lead to more suffering for their country.
``They (U.S officials) are defeated in Iraq. So they are trying to seek for an outlet to get out of their plight in Iraq. And I think the outlet will be at the expense of the Iraqi people,'' Maan al-Obeidi, a professor and political analyst at al-Nahrain University in Baghdad, told AP Television News.
Falah Shanshal, a Shiite lawmaker, said 115 of parliament's 275 legislators have signed a statement rejecting the U.N. Security Council's vote to extend the mandate of the 160,000 multinational forces in Iraq for another year, beginning Jan. 1.
At the time, Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki said one of his government's priorities was to assume full responsibility for Iraq's security, but that it needed more time.
``We demand to set a timetable for the withdrawal of the these forces from Iraq,'' a statement by the lawmakers said. They have made similar protests before without any result.
Al-Maliki persisted, meanwhile, with efforts to curb violence, urging university professors and students to ignore ``the desperate attempts'' of a Sunni Arab insurgent group to keep them from class.
The group had sent e-mails to students and posted signs at schools and mosques saying students should stay away while it cleanses the campuses of Shiite death squads, according to a statement from al-Maliki's office late Tuesday.
The government also announced the capture of a senior aide to Abu Hamza al-Muhajir, also known as Abu Ayyub al-Masri, who took over as leader of al-Qaida in Iraq after his predecessor Abu Musab al-Zarqawi was killed in a U.S. airstrike in June.
Mouwafak al-Rubaie, the government's national security adviser, said U.S. and Iraqi forces captured the aide, though he did not specify where or when. He said three-fifths of al-Qaida in Iraq's leadership has now been captured or killed.
Coalition forces have also detained several leaders of Ansar al-Sunnah, an insurgent group allied with al-Qaida in Iraq, al-Rubaie added.
``The noose is tightening around Abu Ayyub al-Masri, and I can say with all confidence that al-Qaida in Iraq is undergoing a very real leadership crisis,'' al-Rubaie said at a news conference.
Attacks by suspected Sunni insurgents and Shiite militias began soon after sunrise Wednesday.
Brig. Muhssin Qassim al-Yassiri, head of a security force that guards the Education Ministry, narrowly escaped an assassination attempt when gunmen opened fire on his vehicle in west Baghdad, killing his driver, a police officer said on condition of anonymity because he is not authorized to talk to the media.
Five minutes earlier, a roadside bomb exploded near a police patrol in east Baghdad, but caused no casualties, police Capt. Mohammed Abdul-Ghani said.
A bomb also exploded near a shop in Iskandariyah, 30 miles south of Baghdad, killing four people and wounding 12.
Six mortar rounds missed a Sunni mosque, but exploded near homes, wounding two civilians in west Baghdad. Drive-by shootings and mortar attacks north and south of the capital killed four Iraqis and wounded five.
U.S. ground and air forces also conducted a raid targeting foreign insurgents near the Iranian border, killing a militant who opened fire on an aircraft, the U.S. command said.
The early morning raid took place near Khanaqin, a remote desert area 87 miles northeast of Baghdad where U.S. forces have helped Iraqi soldiers set up outposts designed to stop foreign insurgents and their weapons supplies from crossing into Iraq.
A coalition aircraft was leaving the raid when it took small arms fire from a vehicle below; it returned fire, destroying the vehicle and killing its armed insurgent, the command said. One suspected militant also was detained in the raid, which resulted in no U.S. casualties, the statement said.
A new poll by WorldPublicOpinion.org, meanwhile, found that 75 percent of Americans believe that in order to stabilize Iraq the U.S. should enter into talks with Iran and Syria, and nearly 80 percent support an international conference on Iraq. A majority also oppose keeping U.S. forces in Iraq indefinitely and instead support committing to a timetable for their withdrawal within two years or less, the poll found. It was conducted Nov. 21-29, questioned 1,326 Americans nationwide, and had a margin of error of 2.7 to 3.9 percentage points.