An ambush in the district of Al-Wihda, south of the city of Mosul, left two guards dead and a senior police officer seriously injured, Aljazeera’s correspondent reported on Saturday. Another guard was also injured.

Elsewhere, a US soldier was wounded earlier when his patrol came under attack in a village near the town of Baquba, northeast of Baghdad, the US Army told news agencies on Saturday.

The attackers used small arms fire and rocket-propelled grenades, the Army said. The patrol returned fire but there were no reports of Iraqi casualties.

Earlier, a US patrol came under attack in the Al-Qadissiya district of Samara, north of Baghdad, when Iraqi fighters fired a rocket-propelled grenade, an Aljazeera correspondent said. A US tank was damaged but no casualties were reported.

Protesters injured

Meanwhile, several people in the southern city of Nasiriyah were injured, one seriously, after Italian and Romanian troops tried to disperse angry demonstrators, an Aljazeera reporter said on Saturday.

"We will not be responsible for what will happen to the Americans if they enter Sadr City again"

Sheikh Abdul Hadi al-Daraji

The protesters were angry at the local municipal council’s failure to deliver essential services.

The demonstration came a day after thousands of people gathered for prayers in Baghdad’s Sadr City district to denounce US actions, especially an incident when US troops removed a religious flag from a tower in the suburb.

"They were not just attacking a flag, they were attacking all of Islam," Sheikh Abdul Hadi al-Daraji told his congregation, warning: "We will not be responsible for what will happen to the Americans if they enter Sadr City again."

The US army rejected the threats, saying patrols in the volatile area would continue.

Cameraman arrested

Elsewhere US troops detained a cameraman working for Aljazeera, it was reported on Saturday.

Salah Hassan was arrested in Diyala, about 60km north-east of Baghdad. He was caught while filming the debris left behind after a US military search operation for Saddam Hussein in the suburb of Kharnabat. Reasons for the arrest were not immediately clear and he was later released.

The arrest comes days after another Aljazeera cameraman was briefly detained in Samara. The US has frequently arrested and confronted journalists working in Iraq – sometimes with deadly results.

A recent US military investigation – denounced as a whitewash by international journalists' bodies – said last week its troops were not to blame for attacking a hotel that was known to house reporters. Two cameramen, one Spanish and one Ukrainian, were killed when a US tank fired on the Palestine Hotel in Baghdad in April.

Earlier that month, a US missile targeted the Baghdad offices of Aljazeera television, killing one member of staff and wounding another.