BAGHDAD, Iraq -- The U.S. military reported today that nine American troops had been killed in bombings and combat yesterday, raising to 67 the number of U.S. troops killed in October.

The eight U.S. soldiers and one Marine were killed by roadside bombs and enemy fire in and around Baghdad, the military reported.

Four soldiers died when a roadside bomb struck their vehicle early yesterday west of Baghdad, the military said in a brief statement.

Three soldiers attached to Task Force Lightning, assigned to the 3rd Heavy Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, were killed and one wounded during combat in Diyala province east of Baghdad. Another soldier died around when suspected insurgents attacked his patrol in northern Baghdad.

A Marine assigned to Regimental Combat Team 7 also died from injuries sustained during fighting in Al Anbar Province, the military said.

Also yesterday, the Defense Department said two more Pennsylvania soldiers were killed in action.

Officials said three soldiers died Saturday of injuries after a roadside bomb went off near their vehicle in Baghdad.

The victims were 35-year-old Staff Sgt. Joseph M. Kane of Darby, Pa., 25-year-old Spc. Timothy J. Lauer of Saegertown, Pa., and 48-year-old 1st Sgt. Charles M. King of Mobile, Alabama.

All were assigned to the 1st Battalion, 67th Armor Regiment, 2nd Brigade, 4th Infantry Division at Fort Hood, Texas.

The war's deadliest month for U.S. forces was Nov. 2004, when 137 troops died. At least 2,779 members of the U.S. military have died since the beginning of the Iraq war in March 2003, according to an Associated Press count.

Elsewhere, local Sunni and Shiite leaders were meeting in an attempt to resolve the fate of more than 40 people missing since their 13-car convoy was waylaid at a checkpoint on Sunday outside Balad, where almost 100 people were killed in five days of sectarian fighting.

The fighting in Balad forced U.S. forces to return to patrolling the streets of the predominantly Shiite city after Iraq's best-trained soldiers proved unable to stem a series of revenge killings sparked by the murder on Friday of 17 Shiite construction workers.
The U.S. military had turned over control of the surrounding province north of Baghdad to Iraq's 4th Army a month ago, and American forces apparently did not redeploy there until Monday, when the worst of the bloodletting had ended.

Minority Sunnis, who absorbed most of the brutality in the city of 80,000 people, have been fleeing across the Tigris River in small boats.

On the outskirts of the city, two fuel trucks were attacked and burned and Shiite militiamen clashed with residents of Duluiyah, a predominantly Sunni city on the east bank of the Tigris. Militants were blocking food and fuel trucks from entering Duluiyah.

The conflict between Shiites and Sunnis in the Balad area illustrates the threat to the region should Iraq move toward dividing into three federal states -- controlled by Shiites in the south, Sunnis in the center and Kurds in the north.

In other violence today, a bomb planted on the main highway between the cities of Amarah and Basra killed Ali Qassim al-Tamimi, head of intelligence for the Maysan provincial police force, along with four bodyguards, Maysan police Capt. Hussein Karim said.

A pair of car bombs exploded in Baghdad this morning, injuring at least eight people, police reported.

A government statement said today that a much-anticipated Iraqi national reconciliation conference aimed at building political consensus and stemming spiraling sectarian violence in the country will be held Nov. 4.

The conference was originally scheduled to start Oct. 20, but had been indefinitely postponed for unspecified "emergency reasons."

The postponement reflected the upheaval that worsening violence has wrought on efforts to stabilize the government and curb bloodshed. That threatened to damage the administration of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, which took office just over four months ago vowing to implement a 24-point National Reconciliation plan to heal the nation's severe political wounds.

Today's statement said the conference was postponed because of organizational snags, denying what it said were Western and Arab media reports suggesting the delay was caused by disputes over the gathering. It did not elaborate.

Al-Maliki, at the helm of what is formally termed a national unity government, presented national reconciliation plan within days of taking office in May but has been unable to effectively implement any of its stipulations.

In the months since he came to power, Iraq has witnessed the surge in killings between Sunni and Shiite Muslim groups alongside increasingly bitter disputes among his coalition's partners over plans to adopt a federal system for the country's 18 provinces.