BAGHDAD, Iraq — Police dug up the bodies of 20 men bound, blindfolded and shot in the head Sunday from shallow graves east of Baghdad, Iraqi police said. Another eight bodies were found in two different locations inside the Iraqi capital. Also Sunday, the U.S. military said four soldiers were killed in two separate roadside bomb attacks during combat operations west of Baghdad.
Lt. Ayad Ottoman said a shepherd found the bodies of 20 men Friday in the Nahrawan a desert region 20 miles east of Baghdad.
Another eight slain men were found shot in the head Sunday in two different locations in Baghdad's northern suburb of Shula, said police Capt. Majed Abdul Aziz.
The identities of the bodies were not immediately clear.
Four U.S. soldiers killed
The U.S. military said the first two U.S. soldiers were killed Saturday when a bomb exploded near their vehicle during combat operations 12 miles outside Amiriyah, located about 25 miles west of Baghdad.
The soldiers were assigned to the 155th Brigade Combat Team, II Marine Expeditionary Force, the military said.
The other two soldiers, who were assigned to the 2nd Marine Division, II Marine Expeditionary Force, were killed Saturday when their vehicle struck a bomb during combat operation about 18 miles southwest of Taqaddum, 45 miles west of Baghdad.
The names of the soldiers were withheld pending notification of their next of kin. Several U.S. Army units are attached to the Marine Expeditionary Force.
As of Sunday, at least 1,701 members of the U.S. military have died since the beginning of the Iraq war in March 2003, according to an Associated Press count.
Blast kills Iraqi police
On Monday, two suicide car bombers targeted Iraqi security forces killing eight people and wounding 16, the Interior Ministry and police said.
The first blast occurred in Saddam Hussein’s hometown of Tikrit when police pursued a suspicious driver who blew up his car after being cornered. The blast killed two policemen and a firefighter and wounded 11 people, including seven civilians.
Major Salah al-Samarai of the Iraqi police said a second suicide car bomber blew up a vehicle near a joint Iraqi army and police patrol in the nearby city of Samarra, killing five members of the security forces and wounding five others.
Near Baghdad, a roadside bomb blew up next to a patrol of police commandos, an elite police unit, killing one and injuring four, the Interior Ministry said.
Amid the surge in violence since the April 28 announcement of Iraq's new Shiite-led government, some insurgent groups have agreed on the need to join Iraq's political process, a government spokesman said Sunday, calling on them to lay down their guns.
Laith Kuba, a spokesman for Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari, said some insurgent groups felt they no longer needed to carry out their "resistance" after the Jan. 30 national elections and the transfer a year ago of sovereignty from U.S.-led coalition authorities to an Iraqi government.
"Of course before the elections there were certain groups that used to say that Iraq is under occupation and they have a right to resist," Kuba said at a news conference.
"But now I believe this situation no longer exists, and many groups are agreeing on the concept to take part in the political process," he added. "So, now is the right time for any group to lay down their weapons and take part in the process."
Kuba was referring to Iraqi groups opposed to the continued presence of U.S.-led forces in the country, but not foreign extremists like Jordanian-born Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, head of the feared al-Qaida in Iraq group, and his Iraqi allies. The words "resistance" and "national resistance" are often applied to groups that only carry out attacks against U.S. forces.
"Groups who have carried out random killings and explosions will never enter into negotiations with the Iraqi government," Kuba said. "These are criminals and murderers who can't stop. They only want to kill."
Negotiations with minority leaders
Kuba's comments came days after the disclosure that U.S. officials are negotiating with Sunni Arab leaders to pull insurgents into Iraq's political process and recent announcements by influential Sunni and Shiite Muslim leaders that they have held similar discussions with insurgent groups.
More than 12,000 Iraqi civilians have been killed during the past 18 months, according to Interior Ministry figures. More than 930 people, including U.S. military personnel, have died since the announcement of the Shiite-led government.
The bulk of Iraq's insurgents are believed to be homegrown fighters, predominantly loyalists of ousted dictator Saddam Hussein or soldiers from Iraq's disbanded Saddam-era army. Foreign Sunni Arab extremists like al-Zarqawi are believed responsible for the bulk of the country's suicide bombings and are opposed to the presence of U.S. forces in the region and the assumption of power by a Shiite-dominated government.
The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.