updated 1/6/2008 9:17:17 AM ET 2008-01-06T14:17:17

Two Iraqi army soldiers threw themselves atop a suicide bomber, but the attacker was able to detonate an explosives vest, killing the two soldiers and another nine people attending a gathering commemorating Iraq's Army Day, the U.S. military and police said.

Among the dead were four police officers, three Iraqi soldiers and four civilians, a police officer said on condition of anonymity as he was not authorized to speak to the media. He said at least 17 other people were injured in the attack, which took place around 12:30 p.m. local time.

The U.S. military said that four people were killed and four injured. The reason for the discrepancy in the casualty figures was not immediately known.

"The selfless sacrifice of the two Iraqi jundis (soldiers) should not be forgotten. These two Iraqi martyrs gave their lives so that others might live," the U.S. military said in a statement.

Army Day — an official holiday — this year marks the 87th anniversary of the establishment of Iraq's army with military parades and other ceremonies.

In separate violence, a parked car bomb exploded at the entrance of a popular restaurant in northeastern Baghdad, killing one policeman and two civilians, and wounding 12 others, a police official said on condition of anonymity.

In eastern Baghdad a parked car bomb exploded and four mortars landed in the area of a bus terminal. Police said one civilian was killed and three others wounded.

Near Muqdadiyah, about 60 miles north of Baghdad, a joint Iraqi-U.S. patrol on Sunday discovered the heads of five decapitated people, Iraqi military officials told The AP on condition of anonymity as they were not authorized to speak to the media. No further details were immediately available.

Militants target sheiks
Near the city of Khalis in volatile Diyala province northeast of Baghdad, suspected al-Qaida in Iraq fighters attacked the house of a local sheik and kidnapped him and 13 members of his family, an official from a joint coordinating office said.

Earlier Sunday in Baghdad, a Shiite tribal sheik who was part of an effort to form an armed group to combat militias in his Baghdad neighborhood was shot and killed, police said.

Sheik Ismaiel Abbas, believed to be 45, was outside his house in Shaab when he was shot by gunmen driving by in two cars, a police officer said on condition of anonymity as he was not authorized to speak to the media. Shaab is one of the most dangerous neighborhoods in Baghdad and Shiite militias are active in the area.

A resident of the neighborhood, who asked not to be named saying he feared reprisal attacks, said Abbas was in the process of helping form an armed "backing council" to combat the growing influence of the militias.

In other parts of Iraq, so-called "awakening councils" — groups of mostly Sunni anti-al-Qaida in Iraq fighters _ have sprung up in the last year. The groups have been credited by American and Iraqi officials for helping cut violence across the country by 60 percent.

Meanwhile, a local official at the morgue in Kut, 100 miles southeast of Baghdad, said a bullet-riddled body was found Sunday morning in the city. The official spoke on condition of anonymity as he was not authorized to release the information.

American soldier killed
The U.S. military said in a statement Sunday that an American soldier died after being hit by a roadside bomb in Iraq's restive Diyala province.

The soldier died Saturday when the bomb detonated near his vehicle during an operation in the province northeast of Baghdad, the military said. It did not give details about the operation or its location.

The soldier's identity was being withheld pending notification of his family.

The report of that death came a day after the U.S. military said an Iraqi soldier was accused of killing two decorated American servicemen during a joint operation in northern Iraq.

An Iraqi official said the suspect may have links to militant groups.

The shooting the day after Christmas in the northern city of Mosul, which left three other U.S. soldiers and a civilian interpreter wounded, was one of only a handful of known attacks by a member of the Iraqi military on the American troops who train and work closely with Iraqi forces.

Initial results from an Iraqi investigation indicate that the soldier who opened fire may have links to local militants, said Brig. Mutaa Habib Jassim al-Khazrachi, commander of the Iraqi army's 2nd Division, who did not elaborate Saturday.

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