BAGHDAD A car bomb struck a predominantly Shiite area of Baghdad on Thursday, leaving at least five dead. In southern city of Basra, rockets slammed into a British base and killed a number of Iraqi civilians lining up for work.
Three British soldiers were lightly injured in the base attack and British retaliatory fire killed one Iraqi. The attack sparked some of the worst fighting involving the foreign troops since the Iraqis regained control of the oil-rich southern area late last year.
The explosives-laden car was parked in the northern neighborhood of Kazimiyah, which like many Shiite-dominated neighborhoods has regained a kind of normalcy as violence has dropped. However, U.S. and Iraqi troops have been unable to stop the car bombings and suicide attacks usually blamed on Sunni insurgents led by al-Qaida in Iraq.
An Iraqi police officer, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to release the information, said the car was parked about 300 yards from a bus station, but it exploded before passengers started to arrive. The five people killed and eight wounded were passers-by.
At the base in Basra, rockets landed outside the entry gates for Iraqi civilian employees, causing a number of deaths. Capt. Finn Aldrich, a British military spokesman, said he could not be more specific on the number because people were taken to local hospitals. The three British soldiers had light injuries, he added.
An Iraqi military intelligence officer who works at the base said about 10 Iraqis were killed or wounded. He spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to release the information.
Iraqi security forces said one man killed and five wounded when the British returned fire, Aldrich said.
Basra police Maj. Rafea al Ajwadi said the British hit a construction company, killing one employee and wounding five.
Aldrich said a joint British-Iraqi investigation was under way to determine whether the casualties were civilians or militants.
The British military in Iraq "regrets all deaths and injuries in Basra whatever the cause," he said. "The only people that are suffering because of these attacks are the people of Basra."
British forces turned over control of Basra and the surrounding province Dec. 16 despite concerns about increased rivalries between Shiite militias.
But the British maintain troops at a base at the airport outside the city to help Iraqi security forces if needed. Thursday's fighting was the worst involving the British since the Iraqis took over.
In another development, one of Iraq's most influential Sunni politicians, Adnan al-Dulaimi, planned to meet with the Iranian ambassador to discuss security and other issues Thursday. But Iraqi soldiers prevented the Iranian diplomat, a Shiite, from reaching the talks, officials said.
The Iranian ambassador to Iraq, Hassan Kazemi Qomi, was turned back at an Iraqi army checkpoint near al-Dulaimi's compound in western Baghdad, according to officials from both sides.
Al-Dulaimi's office had not given the Iraqi army proper notice about the expected visit, a director in the Iranian ambassador's office said, speaking on condition of anonymity in exchange for discussing diplomatic discussions.It was the latest example of continued tensions between the Sunnis and the Shiite-led establishment that are tempering optimism over a drastic decline in violence over the past several months.
Associated Press writers Qassim Abdul-Zahra and Sameer N. Yacoub contributed to this report.