Gunbattles between al-Qaeda and the Islamic Army, a Sunni Arab nationalist group, broke out late on Friday in the remote villages of al-Julam and Benat al-Hassan near Samarra, 100 km (60 miles) north of Baghdad, and ended early on Saturday.
The villages were former al Qaeda strongholds, but residents, many of them Islamic Army fighters, combined to drive them out.
Signs of al Qaeda's weakening support were highlighted by an audiotape, featuring Osama bin Laden and aired last month, in which bin Laden conceded wrongs had been committed in Iraq because of fanaticism in his group.
Bin Laden urged insurgent groups to unite under al Qaeda's Iraq wing. The group has faced growing resistance because of its indiscriminate killings and the strict interpretation of Islam it seeks to impose.
A police source in Samarra said 17 al Qaeda fighters were killed, as well as 15 Islamic Army fighters and villagers.
The Islamic Army source said 18 al Qaeda fighters, some of them wounded, had also been captured but would be released if al Qaeda left the area.
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