The fighting Wednesday in Ramadi, 70 miles west of Baghdad, wounded 14 U.S. servicemen, but none sustained life threatening injuries and 10 have returned to duty, according to a Marine statement.
The Marines say fighting began when a bomb was set off near a Marine convoy in an ambush attempt. Iraqi fighters followed through with small arms fire and rocket-propelled grenades. The fighting escalated, with more insurgents joining the first group and the Marines calling in warplanes to back them up, CBS News Correspondent Elaine Cobbe reports.
In Baghdad, insurgents battled with U.S. soldiers on Haifa Street, according to an unidentified hospital official interviewed by Associated Press Television News. Two Iraqis were reported wounded.
Elsewhere, assailants attacked a police patrol and a government-run cultural center in the northern Iraqi city of Kirkuk, separate attacks that wounded two people, security officials said Thursday.
In other developments:
"We are in touch with authorities in Baghdad and Kuwait and are making all efforts to ensure an early and safe release of the hostages," Indian External Affairs Minister K. Natwar Singh said in Islamabad, Pakistan. "The hostages are noncombatants, and I appeal to all those who have influence to assist in ensuring the safe return home of these innocent people."
The group that captured the six said it would behead a captive every 72 hours beginning Saturday night if their countries do not announce their intentions to withdraw troops and citizens from Iraq and warned that every Kuwaiti company dealing with Americans "will be dealt with as an American."
The threat to behead the hostages — and separate warnings against Bulgarian, Polish and Japanese troops — is the latest development in a violent campaign to scare off foreigners, who play a vital role in supporting the new U.S.-backed government and in the reconstruction of Iraq.
More than 60 foreigners have been taken hostage in recent months in Iraq, where thousands of foreigners toil as contract workers for coalition forces, in crucial reconstruction jobs or as truck drivers hauling cargo for private companies.
The threat came two days after the Philippines withdrew its 51-troop contingent from Iraq, giving in to the demands of militants holding a Filipino truck driver. The driver, Angelo dela Cruz, returned to the Philippines on Thursday, two days after his release.
Iraqi and U.S. officials had warned of a potential surge in threats and hostage-taking when the Philippines withdrew its troops. Egypt, Kenya and India are not part of the 160,000-member U.S.-led coalition; however, interim Allawi appealed last week to India and Egypt to send in troops.
Marines spokesman Lt. Col. T.V. Johnson said the situation in Ramadi was "relatively quiet" Thursday and that "Marines continue to operate from bases within the city, as they have since arriving early this year."
In the fighting, the American ground forces clashed with the insurgents for hours, during which the Marines also safely detonated two homemade bombs, including one placed in a car.
Ramadi is located in Anbar Province, a Sunni-dominated area west of the Iraqi capital that has been a hotbed of anti-coalition insurgency. Ramadi shopkeepers were seen shuttering their stores Thursday, apparently in fear of more clashes.
"We were told by the opposition (insurgents) to close our shops and leave the area because there would be fighting in the market," said Mohammed Medhat, the owner of a grocery store in Ramadi's central market area. "I'm a father. I need to earn money to feed my children. We can't keep living with this fighting."
The fighting in Baghdad occurred around 4 a.m. in Haifa Street, the scene of another gunbattle earlier this month, according to an unidentified hospital official interviewed by Associated Press Television.
The official, speaking at a Baghdad hospital, said one police officer and another man suffered gun shot wounds.
Interior Ministry official Sabah Khadum said Iraqi police and intelligence forces arrested 200 people, including several "non-Iraqi Arabs," during the Haifa Street operation and discovered a huge cache of weapons.
American soldiers in armored vehicles and a U.S. sniper on a rooftop were seen in Haifa Street following the early morning clashes. It was not immediately clear what sparked the fighting.