The US military said one soldier was killed near Hawija north of Baghdad. Another died from wounds sustained during a clash in northern Mosul. The soldier was among several people injured during a clash that erupted on Wednesday after troops tried to conduct a check of a taxi.

Another soldier was killed when his patrol came under fire in Baghdad, the military said in a statement. Armed men who carried out the attack disappeared into a nearby crowd, but five suspects were later detained.

Meanwhile, Aljazeera issued a statement calling for the release of three Romanian journalists and a fourth person seized by an unidentified armed group earlier this week.

In a statement released on Thursday, Aljazeera said the abduction of any journalist fulfilling his duties is a stark violation of human rights principles.

Romania, which has about 800 troops in the US-led military coalition in Iraq, has set up a crisis centre to handle the situation, while President Traian Basescu said local and foreign secret services had been alerted.

Multiple blasts

In violence elsewhere in Iraq, a bomber blew up his car south of Kirkuk, killing two Iraqi army soldiers and three bystanders.

The explosion in Tuz Khormato, injured at least 16 people, including eight Iraqi soldiers, said Sarhad Qadir, a police official. The blast occurred near a checkpoint set up to guard a Shia shrine where pilgrims were celebrating a major religious festival.

US soldiers have failed to stem
the growing number of attacks

A second bomber in Samarra, north of Baghdad, rammed a car into an American Humvee in the city centre, police official Qasim Umar said. 

Three people were reported killed and more than a dozen others injured, hospital officials said. 
 
Also in Samarra, armed men briefly attacked a police station with rocket propelled grenades and gunfire, police official Qasim Muhammad said. No casualties were reported.

Unidentified armed men also opened fire late on Wednesday on a truck near Hillah, 38km south of Baghdad. One person was killed. Earlier, Shia pilgrims were fired upon in southern Iraq, resulting in the death of one.

A roadside bomb also injured six policemen on patrol and one bystander in the southern city of Basra, police official Lieutenant Colonel Karim Al-Zubaidi said.

Crash

Officials meanwhile said that an unmanned US Predator spy plane has crashed in Iraq – the second in three days.

It is mostly innocent civilians who
pay the ultimate price

A military statement from Baghdad said the remotely piloted MQ-1 Predator crashed in Rawah, northwest of Ramadi, about 38km east of the Syrian border.

On Sunday, an MQ-1 Predator crashed near Balad, about 25km north of Baghdad.

The cause of the crashes was not immediately determined. The military said boards of officers will investigate.

MQ-1s are equipped with video and infrared cameras and armed with laser-guided Hellfire missiles. They cost up to $3.8 million each.