BAGHDAD, Iraq -- A U.S. military missile attack on insurgents in a town north of the capital left six insurgents dead and five wounded yesterday, officials said.
But witnesses in Husseiniya, about 20 miles north of Baghdad, said U.S. helicopters attacked three houses during a four-hour period, killing at least 18 people, including women and children. They said about 21 people were wounded in the attacks, which leveled the buildings.
Meanwhile, Iraq's prime minister urged parliament to cancel or shorten its summer vacation to pass laws Washington considers crucial to Iraq's stability and the debate on how long U.S. forces should remain.
Parliament was scheduled to adjourn for all of August. American officials, however, began pressing Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and parliament late last year to pass at least two laws viewed as a way to defuse the sectarian violence crippling Iraq: one on the distribution of oil and another on how to handle former members of Saddam Hussein's Baath party.
Al-Maliki's office said he discussed parliament's failure to pass key legislation during a meeting with U.S. Ambassador Ryan Crocker and presidential adviser Meghan O'Sullivan. There was no immediate report on the meeting from U.S. officials.
A statement by the Shiite prime minister's office said he "hoped that the parliament would cancel its summer vacation or limit it to [two weeks] to help the government solve the pending issues on top of which [are] the vacant ministerial posts."
Altogether more than 60 people were killed or found dead in Iraq yesterday, Iraqi authorities said.
The missile attack took place after insurgents fired on combined U.S. and Iraqi forces from a house near Husseiniya shortly before midnight, the U.S. military said.
U.S. attack helicopters returned fire with missiles, chasing the insurgents to a second house and dropping a bomb that caused several secondary explosions, probably from explosives stored in the building, the military said.
Iraqi police searched the area and found six insurgents killed and five wounded, the statement said. But witnesses in the town offered a conflicting account.
Trade Ministry official Ali Abid Fartusi, 36, said he saw seven or eight charred bodies, including those of children. He said residents in the mostly Shiite Muslim area have been attacked by Sunni insurgents in the east and U.S. forces in the west.
"We are between the hammer of the Sunni areas and the anvil of the American troops," Fartusi said. "We are living under miserable circumstances."
An official with the political organization of anti-U.S. Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr said 17 people were killed in the attack, including three children.
A U.S. military spokesman said no civilian casualties were reported after the attack.
The U.S. military reported yesterday that an American soldier died after he was injured by an explosion next to his vehicle in Diyala province Friday.
U.S. forces clashed with gunmen late yesterday in east Baghdad, leaving five civilians dead, including two women and a child, and 11 injured, police said.
The military announced that U.S. and Iraqi forces detained a former Baghdad mayor and city council member Friday in connection with kidnappings, extortion and murder by Sunni insurgent networks they say he was involved with, including al-Qaida in Iraq and the New Baath Party.
Iraqi forces killed five insurgents and detained 46 yesterday north of the capital in Baqouba, according to a Defense Ministry spokesman.
Former Iraqi deputy premier Tariq Aziz, 71, a top Christian official in Saddam Hussein's regime who has been in U.S. detention, was hospitalized Friday, according to Head Prosecutor Jaffar Mousawi. Mousawi said Aziz slipped and hit his head in Camp Cropper, the U.S. prison where he has been held as Iraqi since his capture after the U.S.-led invasion. Aziz was taken to a U.S. military hospital, treated, released and allowed to call his family, Mousawi said.
Molly Hennessy-Fiske writes for the Los Angeles Times. The Associated Press and New York Times contributed to this report.