The officer died during a skirmish near the northern oil centre of Kirkuk, according to Civil Defence Corp General Anwar Hamid Amin.

Unknown assailants fired rocket-propelled grenades at a checkpoint in the village of al-Muradiyah, 83 kilometres south of Kirkuk at 06:30 am (03:30 GMT).

A pick-up truck carrying ICDC soldiers was also hit by an explosive device concealed in a handcart on the roadside near the town of Baquba, north of Baghdad.

Eight ICDC officers and two civilians were wounded in the attack, which occurred shortly before 9:00 am (0600 GMT).

Cart bomb

Kadir Aziz, the driver of the pick-up which had been transporting 15 people east of Baquba, said he saw the explosive device but did not think it suspicious.

Wednesday's car bomb killed three
in the very centre of Baghdad

"I saw a small cart in the road, I thought it was for someone selling something, when we were close to this, it exploded," he said.

Another ICDC officer said a remote control device was later found in the area, and a man had been seen fleeing the scene in an Opel car.

Hotel attack

On Wednesday, three people were killed in a powerful car bomb explosion that ripped through the centre of Baghdad early on Wednesday.

Locals said the blast destroyed a police post and tore the front of a hotel in the Iraqi capital's upmarket Karrada district, setting fire to cars nearby.

Police said an ambulance packed with explosives drove up to the Shahine hotel at high speed and detonated.

The hotel is frequented by foreign business people but the police outpost on the other side of the road also bore the brunt of the blast.