Our correspondent quoting police sources reported that three Iraqis were killed and 16 wounded late on Thursday in a huge explosion at an arms dump in the town of Rutba, 400km west of Baghdad. The police did not reveal the reasons for the blast.

 

In another incident, a 13-year-old boy, Omar Saad Jassem, was accidentally killed late on Thursday after US troops opened fire and missed their target, his father said.

  

Chase

 

"At 2145 (1745 GMT) an American unit was chasing and opening fire on an individual who was riding a motorbike, and fatally wounded Omar who was nearby," the boy's father Saad Jassem said.

  

The adolescent was ferried from Baquba, northeast of Baghdad, by a United States helicopter to a hospital where he was pronounced dead.

 

Our correspondent quoting witnesses reported that several US soldiers were wounded in a resistance attack at al-Shimeit village in Hawija district, northeast of Baghdad at dawn on Friday.  Fighters targeted a US patrol with rocket-propelled grenades causing injuries to many soldiers.

 

"The attackers want civil war between Shias and Sunnis. God will reveal who they are"

Waleed al-Azawi,              Imam, Qiba'a mosque

An Iraqi resistance fighter opened fire with a machine-gun injuring a US soldier in Baquba, US military spokesman Anthony Reinoso said. 

 

Mosque hit

 

In Baghdad an unidentified group fired gunshots on a Sunni mosque early on Friday in al-Sha’ab district wounding three, one seriously, our correspondent reported, quoting witnesses.

   

Residents said the attack, in a mainly Shia area of Baghdad, appeared intended to foment conflict between Iraq's two Muslim communities.

   

"The attackers want civil war between Shias and Sunnis. God will reveal who they are," the Qiba'a mosque's Imam Waleed al-Azawi."They want to break the unity of Muslims," he said.

 

Bullet holes on the walls of
Baghdad's Qiba'a mosque

About 40 worshippers were at the mosque when the attackers, thought to number three or four, pulled up in a vehicle, burst through the front gate and opened fire with assault rifles.

   

"We were listening to a lesson when they came in and started shooting at random," said Abdullah Waleed, son of the local sheikh. "People ran to hide everywhere, but they hit three. We were unarmed, in a sacred place. What could we do?"

   

After the incident, security was stepped up at other mosques around Baghdad for prayers on the Muslim holy day.

   

At the Qibaa mosque, Iraqi police were joined by local Shia guards in a show of unity from the local community.

   

"They have attacked a Sunni holy place but now we have Shias helping us. We will not let them divide us," said Hussein Ali Kadhim, a worshipper who witnessed the attack. 

 

Rumsfeld visit

 

Meanwhile, US Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld descended on Saddam Hussein's hometown Tikrit with a fleet of helicopters on Friday.

  

Tanks cordoned off the main street in Tikrit as Rumsfeld breezed in to deliver an upbeat message to members of the US 4th Infantry Division.

 

Rumsfeld attempts to boost
US troop morale in Tikrit

"What you're doing - know it's important, know it is succeeding, and it is still succeeding," he said after landing inside the three-metre walls of Saddam Hussein's former palace now housing the division's base.

  

But the arrival of Rumsfeld in Tikrit made little impression on the ordinary Iraqi such as nurse Nahidah Ismail, who stared at the palace walls and offered a long-distance thought for Rumsfeld.

  

"Since you came here, what have you done for us?" she asked. "Most of the people's conditions are getting worse. They are not getting salaries. Prices keep going up. Before life was better for the middle class."