Earlier in the day, three mortar rounds exploded near the Abu Hanifa mosque in Baghdad, wounding a guard.
 

The mosque is one of the most important religious sites for Sunni Muslims in Iraq.

 

Sadr appeals for calm

 

A defence ministry official said that Friday's clashes were so intense that precise information was difficult to obtain.
 
"We couldn't intervene, neither us or the police - it was too fierce, so the Americans had to come in," said the official.
 
Al-Sadr appealed for unity in a statement on Thursday, while Iraqi leaders appeared on television urging calm. But a source at police headquarters said 30 people were killed and 48 wounded in violence in Hurriya.
 
Militia members set fire to the Nida Allah mosque in this mixed Sunni-Shia neighbourhood, next to the Shia bastion of Kadhimiyah, and then prevented firemen from dousing the blaze.
 
The defence official added that members of the Mahdi Army attacked the mosque with hand-held and rocket-propelled grenades, before going on to attack the houses of Sunni residents.
 
Also on Friday, a US helicopter fired on a funeral party in Baghdad, one of dozens taking place after Thursday's devastating bombings in Sadr City, in response to ritual shooting, the Iraqi interior ministry said.
 
A ministry official said two people were wounded.
 
Sunni leader's account
 
Adnan al-Dulaimi , a leading Sunni politician, said that mosques in Baghdad's Sunni al-Ameriyah and Ghazaliya neighbourhoods were also targeted by "terrorist militias".
 
"A large number of innocent civilians also died as the militias attacked apartments in the Salikh neighbourhood," al-Dulaimi said in a statement.
 

Elsewhere, double suicide blasts ripped through a car market in the northern Iraqi city of Tal Afar. Two suicide bombers, one in a car and the other wearing an explosives vest, killed 22 people and wounded 26.

 

Police in the regional capital, Mosul, said that Friday's attack was aimed at civilians in an outdoor market for vehicles.

   

Tal Afar, close to the Syrian border, is mostly home to Turkish-speaking ethnic Turkmen who are divided between Shia and Sunni Muslim believers.

 
Civilian toll

 

In other news, the UN said on Wednesday that 3,709 civilians had been killed in Iraq in October, the most in any month since the war began 44 months ago. The figure is likely to be eclipsed in November.

 

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The UN said citizens were leaving the country at 100,000 a month, and that at least 1.6 million Iraqis have left since the US invaded in March 2003.

 

The International Organisation for Migration, a UN-associated group, said on Tuesday that the number of Iraqis displaced by violence since the Samarra bombing in February 2006 has now increased to almost 250,000 in the 15 central and southern governorates, with more than 1,000 people on average being displaced a day in September, October and November.

Source: Aljazeera+agencies