The funeral attack occurred as Nouri al-Maliki, the Iraqi prime minister, decided to take personal charge of a military operation to rout al-Qaeda in Iraq in what the US describes as the terror group's last major stronghold, even as a tenuous cease-fire took hold over Baghdad's Sadr City slum.


Al-Maliki's flight to Mosul, 360 km northwest of the capital, mirrors a trip he took almost two months ago to the southern city of Basra, where government troops fought Shia fighters.


Also on Wednesday in the south of Iraqi capital, Baghdad, a young girl strapped with explosives killed an Iraqi captain and wounded four soldiers. Ahmed Ali, an Iraqi army lieutenant, said the explosives were detonated by remote control as the girl approached the Iraqi officer.


Both Iraqi and American spokesmen confirmed that the attack took place.