US forces attacked what they say is a suspected resistance fighter hideout in the outskirts of Baghdad on Thursday night.

Military officials said they launched "offensive operations" involving ground and air units. It was part of Operation Iron Grip, aimed at stamping out resistance fighters in the capital.
   
The resistance in Baghdad is the widest in scale since the 13 December capture of ousted leader Saddam Hussein.    

Meanwhile, there was no immediate word of casualties after bombs struck the US headquarters in central Baghdad. Warning sirens blared in the huge facility shortly after the attack.
   
The night attack came 17 hours after resistance fighters fired more than a dozen rockets and mortar bombs in central Baghdad, hitting the vicinity of the US headquarters, two hotels occupied by Westerners, two embassies and an apartment bloc.

Hotel, embassies targeted

Rockets struck the outer wall of the Iranian embassy, the Turkish embassy and a residential building next to the Germany embassy.

Two Sheraton and Burj al-Hayat hotels, used by Westerners, and an Iraqi apartment block nearby were also targeted.

Some rockets missed their target
and fell on residential buildings

A rocket missed the Interior Ministry and landed in a nearby street, said witnesses. Police said US troops defused a rocket aimed at the finance ministry in another neighbourhood. One woman was wounded in the attacks, which took place
around sunrise.

An American soldier was killed by a roadside bomb in the capital on Wednesday, military officials disclosed on Thursday. The latest announcement brings to 206 the number of US soldiers killed by resistance attacks since US President George Bush announced the end of major combat in Iraq on 1 May.

The bombings added to the gloom surrounding Christmas celebrations. Baghdad churches did not hold traditional midnight mass because Iraqis are afraid of venturing out of their homes after midnight. Iraqi Christians, however, attended masses on Thursday morning. 

Resistance outside capital

Resistance fighters also lobbed two mortar bombs at a US military camp in the town of Baquba, 65km, north of the capital on Thursday. Eight occupation soldiers were injured, two of them seriously.

Near Baquba two Iraqi Civil Defence Corps (ICDC) members were wounded in a drive-by shooting, said police. Several bullets hit Lieutenant Naim Ijbari in the stomach and he was taken to hospital in Baghdad.  

There was no midnight mass in
Iraq due to instability

His colleague, Haidar Abd al-Kazim, was hit in the right hand and cut by shards of glass when assailants pulled up alongside their car and riddled it with bullets.

On the diplomatic front, around 130 Sunni Muslim dignatories formed, in Baghdad on Thursday, a unified council to represent the interests of Iraq's Arab, Kurdish and Turkman Sunni communities, said a group spokesman.
  
Representatives of the Iraqi Islamist Party, linked to the Muslim Brotherhood, the Islamic Party of Kurdistan, Salafists, Sufis and charitable organisations, as well as notable individuals took the decision at a meeting in a Baghdad mosque.
  
The Shura (Consultative) Council of the Sunnis will aim to confront the "marginalisation of this community" following the fall of Saddam, said Shaikh Ahmad al-Dabbash, from the Iraqi Islamist Party. 
     
The council is to elect a committee of 70 members, whose job it will be to unify the community's position in the run-up to elections for a new, transitional national assembly, said one of the participants.