"I fell out of the watch-tower because of the strength of the explosion. I broke my leg and have injured a shoulder," one of the wounded, Saad Fathi, said from his hospital bed on Tuesday.

On Sunday, a car bomb attack in a marketplace in Al-Gayara, near Mosul, wounded
15 people.

Mosul offensive

The US military says Tuesday's attack was similar to dozens of others carried out by al-Qaeda for whom Mosul is the group's last urban stronghold in Iraq.

"I fell out of the watch-tower because of the strength of the explosion. I broke my leg and have injured a shoulder"

Saad Fathi
Injured in Mosul blast

Mosul descended into violence as al-Qaeda took refuge in the city of 1.5 million people, after being driven out of Baghdad and the western province of Anbar in 2007.

The Iraqi military has been on the offensive in Mosul since May 2008 but so far has failed to halt the deadly attacks.

Niniveh, the provincial capital of Mosul, and Diyala, which lies northeast of Baghdad, remain the most dangerous areas of Iraq.
   
The US military says fighters in Mosul have been weakened but not defeated, posing a challenge for Washington as it plans to withdraw its troops.

Basra transfer

British troops, meanwhile, started their pullout from Iraq on Tuesday with the lowering of a Royal Marines flag and handover of a Basra base to US control six years after their joint invasion.

The UK began handing over control to US forces in Basra six years after the joint invasion [AFP]
 

"Our nations are bonded by the blood we have shed together. That is a bond that no man can break," said General Ray Odierno, a senior US officer in Iraq, shortly before a US flag replaced that of the Royal Marines.
  
"You have restored hope where chaos reigned," Odierno said before an audience of about 300 invited guests who included senior US, British and Iraqi officers.

Naseer al-Ebadi, Iraq's deputy chief of staff for armed forces, thanked the British forces on Tuesday for training and equipping the Iraqis and said his forces were ready to take over.

Diplomats from all three countries also attended the ceremony.
  
Barack Obama, the US president, last month ordered an end to US combat  operations in Iraq by August 2010, ahead of a complete withdrawal  the following year.