A roadside bomb attack targeting a US patrol near the heavily fortified Green Zone killed two Iraqis and wounded three yesterday, security officials said while three US soldiers were killed in two separate incidents in northern Iraq.
Two heavily armored Stryker vehicles of the US military and a civilian car were badly damaged in the blast, a correspondent at the site reported.
US military spokesman Major Winfield Danielson when contacted said details of the explosion were being investigated.
The blast, which sent a thick plume of smoke in the sky occurred around 8:10am, a time when hundreds of Iraqis line up to enter the Green Zone, which houses the US and British embassies and the Iraqi parliament.
Police said the bomb targeted a passing US military convoy. One vehicle had been hit, police said, but it was unclear if there were any US casualties.
The blast was by far the biggest in recent weeks as bombings and shootings have dropped in the Iraqi capital following a massive military assault by US and Iraqi troops.
Meanwhile, three US soldiers were killed in two separate incidents in northern Iraq, the US military said yesterday, the latest casualties in what has been the deadliest year of the war for US forces.
Two US soldiers died and four were wounded when they were hit by a roadside bomb in restive Diyala Province northeast of Baghdad on Tuesday, the military said in a statement.
Another US soldier was shot and killed near the volatile city of Mosul, 390km north of Baghdad.
Their deaths took the total of US soldiers killed in Iraq to 3,863, according to the independent Web site icasualties.org, which tracks military and civilian casualties in Iraq.
US military and Iraqi civilian casualties dropped sharply in the previous two months, with a boost of 30,000 extra troops, improving Iraqi security forces and the growing use of neighborhood police units being credited for the declines.
US President George W. Bush sent the extra troops to Iraq in a last-ditch bid to stop Iraq from spiralling into sectarian civil war between majority Shiites and minority Sunni Arabs.
The US military said on Tuesday that 3,000 troops were being sent home from Diyala, part of Bush's plan to cut troop levels in Iraq.
Meanwhile, Iraqi government soldiers shut down the Baghdad headquarters of one of the most powerful Sunni Muslim groups in Iraq yesterday, the group said.
Soldiers moved into the Um al-Qura mosque in a Sunni district of western Baghdad where the Committee of Muslim Scholars is based and ordered the occupants out, a statement on the group's Web site said.
The committee, which is said to be close to the anti-US insurgency in Iraq, is headed by cleric Harith al-Dhari, one of the most important Sunni Muslim religious figures in Iraq who lives in exile in Jordan.
The association said the soldiers were acting on the orders of Ahmad Abdel Rafur Sammarrai, who runs a government agency charged with managing Sunni mosques and other religious sites.
The raid was yet another sign of the growing battle for influence between the Committee of Muslim Scholars and rival Sunni groups, some of which have joined US forces in the fight against al-Qaida.
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