Image: Vehicles charred in Baghdad blast.
Mohammed Uraibi  /  AP
Iraqis look at vehicles charred in a mortar blast on al-Rasheed Street, in a commercial district of Baghdad on Tuesday.
msnbc.com news services
updated 8/17/2004 10:43:16 AM ET 2004-08-17T14:43:16

Insurgents fired a mortar on a busy street in central Baghdad on Tuesday, killing five people and wounding 30, the Interior Ministry and hospital officials said.

Iraqi officials had earlier reported the explosion was a car bomb, but later corrected that account.

The blast on al-Rasheed Street, a commercial district in Baghdad, set one building on fire and damaged seven cars, said Col. Adnan Abdul-Rahman of the Interior Ministry.

Capt. Amer Nouman at the Medical City hospital said the blast killed five people, including two children. Three of the bodies were burned beyond recognition, he said. He said the hospital also received 30 people who were wounded in the explosion.

The attack occurred on the final day of the country’s National Conference, a gathering of delegates from across Iraq that was considered a major target for insurgents who have waged violent attacks here for the past 16 months. The mortar blast was not near the fortified enclave that housed the conference.

Najaf battles
Meanwhile, U.S. forces fought pitched battles with Iraqi Shiite militiamen in the center of Najaf on Tuesday.

Tanks and armored vehicles were seen taking positions around the old city, where hundreds of al-Mahdi Army militiamen loyal to Muqtada al-Sadr are entrenched. The old city is near the Imam Ali Mosque, Iraq’s holiest Shiiite Muslim shrine.

A Reuters photographer was wounded in the leg while covering the fighting. The photographer, an Iraqi, was being treated from bullet fragment wounds at a U.S. military facility. 

On Monday, U.S. tanks edged to within 500 yards of the Imam Ali shrine, as explosions shook an adjacent cemetery that has been the scene of fierce fighting between American troops and al-Sadr's supporters.

Slideshow: Najaf clashes

Fighting in Najaf killed two U.S. soldiers from the 1st Cavalry Division on Sunday, the military reported Monday. A third soldier was killed Sunday in the volatile Anbar province, the center of the country’s Sunni insurgency.

Meantime, Iran and Saudi Arabia called Monday for the United Nations to intervene in Iraq to stop the fighting in Najaf.

Iranian Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi made the request in a telephone conversation with U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan, the official Islamic Republic News Agency reported Monday.

“Americans once again made a grave blunder in calculating developments in Iraq and provoked the sentiments of the Iraqi people through resorting to the use of force,” IRNA quoted Kharrazi as telling Annan.

The Saudi Cabinet issued a statement expressing “deep pain and sorrow” over the situation in parts of Iraq and calling for “a greater role for the United Nations in efforts to stop the bloodshed,” the official Saudi Press Agency reported.

The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.

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