US-led forces in Iraq fought more battles with Sunni and Shi'ite Muslim militants across the country Wednesday but US officials say the violence is not part of a popular uprising.
US Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld says the US-led coalition is facing a "power-play" by a "relatively small" number of terrorists and insurgents opposed to a democratic Iraq. But he says the coalition is on the offensive and has not lost control of the country.
Earlier US Marines in Fallujah destroyed a wall outside a Sunni mosque after coming under fire from militants. US officials say the Marines did not damage the mosque. Witnesses say as many as 40 people died.
Marines entered the city Tuesday, in response to the killing of four US civilian contractors last week.
In other violence Wednesday, two US soldiers were reported killed in Baghdad and another was killed near Balad. Eight Iraqis died in clashes with US troops outside Kirkuk.
US authorities also vowed to carry out deliberate attacks against the militia of fugitive Shi'ite Muslim cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, who is surrounded by followers in Najaf. A top aide to the cleric was reported killed Wednesday by coalition troops in the holy city of Karbala.
Meanwhile, President Bush consulted with British Prime Minister Tony Blair by phone Wednesday on the situation in Iraq.