BAGHDAD, Aug 4 (AP): Thousands of Shiite youths, some armed, headed into Iraq's capital for a pro-Hezbollah rally as skirmishes erupted with US troops that left at least three people dead, officials said. Fifteen rally-goers were wounded in a bus bombing.
The city was rocked before the crowd arrivals Thursday by a motorcycle bomb that killed 12 people - the latest victims of bloodshed that senior US generals warned could lead to civil war.
Two Marines were killed in Anbar province west of Baghdad, the US military said, bringing to 13 the number of Americans to die in that violent region since July 27.
Radical Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr summoned his followers around the country to attend a mass rally Friday in the city's Sadr City district in support of the Shiite militants of Hezbollah battling Israeli troops in southern Lebanon.
Iraqi police said one al-Sadr follower was killed by US troops near Mahmoudiya after he brandished a weapon. American officials said two people were killed when gunmen in three vehicles shot at the guard towers of a US base near the city and US soldiers fired back.
In the latest violence, a bomb strapped to a motorcycle exploded Thursday in the centre of Baghdad, killing at least 12 people and wounding 29, police said. The blast went off near fruit and vegetable vendors in a major shopping district, police Lt. Ahmed Mohammed Ali said.
At least 18 other people were killed or found dead Thursday across Iraq, including nine bodies discovered floating in the Tigris River - some of them bound and with bullet wounds. They also included three people killed late Thursday when extremists fired three mortar shells in the town of Obeidi near the Syrian border, the US military said.
Meanwhile, At least 17 people were killed as Iraqi security forces fought street gunbattles with suspected insurgents in the northern city of Mosul after a suicide car bomber blew up a police patrol Friday, officials said. Another suicide bomber killed three people on a soccer field.
Nine policemen including a colonel were killed and eight were injured in the suicide car bombing early Friday in Al-Nour quarter in eastern Mosul, said provincial police commander Maj. Gen. Within al-Hamdani.
Police shot and killed eight insurgents in two car who were firing at them, said al-Hamdani. During the course of the battles, two other cars blew up but caused no casualties. Five cars loaded with explosives were also seized, said al-Hamdani.
Also Friday, a suicide car bomber drove into a football field and blew up the vehicle and himself, killing three policemen who were among the players. The incident occurred in Hatra, 70 kilometre (45 miles) southeast of Mosul, police Col. Abdul Karim Ahmed Khalaf said.
Meanwhile, Gunmen killed two policemen and wounded two others in the restive city of Fallujah Friday, local police source said.
Unknown armed men shot dead police officer Ahmed Jaseem while he was leaving his house in a central Fallujah neighbourhood early in the morning, the source told Xinhua on condition of anonymity.
In separate incident, armed men attacked several government buildings and police patrols in central Fallujah at about 8:30 a.m. (0430 GMT), leaving a policeman dead and two others wounded, the source said.