In another incident a US soldier was killed in a mortar attack on a base in northern Iraq, as Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton visited US troops in Baghdad.

According to an army spokesman, four mortar shells were fired at the 101st Airborne Division in the northern city of Mosul.

In the first case,  the US army confirmed the boy was shot in the foot, claiming the child brandished a Kalashnikov. The shooting occurred during a raid in the city of Ramadi, west of Baghdad, the US military said on Saturday.

AFP reports that soldiers, while on patrol, witnessed two men with weapons running into a nearby residence. The soldiers followed the men in order to apprehend them for questioning," a Central Command statement said.

"Upon approaching the house, a seven-year-old child came out with an AK-47 rifle pointed at the soldiers. A soldier responded in self-defence and shot the child in the foot."

The statement said the child was evacuated to a nearby army medical facility for treatment and then flown to Baghdad.

No independent sources or the boy's family members have yet been available to commment on the statement. 

Former first lady
 
Clinton, the former US first lady, visited troops and top US officials on Friday just one day after Bush's stealth visit.

Clinton (R) during a tour of the
barracks of the 2nd battalion

Unlike the US president, who never left the main military camp at Baghdad airport during his two-and-a-half hour stay, Clinton left the heavily fortified complex around the palace to go and visit troops.

Rice defends Bush

Meanwhile at Bush's ranch in Crawford, Texas, national security adviser Condoleezza Rice denied that the president's blitz trip was a political stunt that inadvertently highlighted the chaos still blighting Iraq.
 
"Obviously, Iraq is still a dangerous place, and that's no secret to anyone," Rice told American television hours after returning to the United States with Bush.
 
Charges that the secrecy and security blanketing his two-and-a-half stop at Baghdad airport showed that Iraq has made little progress towards stability since the US-led March invasion are "just not true," she said.

Critics

Some critics, including the presidential campaign of retired general Wesley Clark, said the brevity and secrecy of the visit actually showed how little Washington has accomplished in Iraq since taking control in April.

"The trip highlights how insecure Iraq is and shows how we need to get our allies in to get the American face off the occupation," Clark spokesman Jamal Simmons said.

Bush's blitz visit not only caught US troops off guard, but also pushed startled opposition Democrats off track as they vie to win back the White House in 2004.