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Blast at Iraqi Mosque Kills at Least 5 - 2004-01-09

A bomb blast outside a mosque in the central Iraqi town of Baquba has killed at least five people and injured dozens more.

The bomb exploded outside a Shia mosque in a residential area of Baquba at the end of Friday prayers. Police and witnesses say the bomb also shattered windows and damaged cars.

Baquba is located some 60 kilometers north of Baghdad and lies in the midst of Iraq's Sunni Muslim heartland. There have been a number of attacks on mosques and rising tension between Iraq's Sunni minority and its Shia Muslim majority. A car bomb outside the main mosque in the Shia holy city of Najaf last August killed more than 80 people after Friday prayers, including a senior Shi'ite cleric.

The area around Baquba has also been a focal point for attacks against U.S.-led coalition forces. Separately, in an overnight raid, hundreds of U.S. forces conducted a major security operation in Saddam Hussein's hometown of Tikrit and arrested a number of people, including some suspected of attacking American soldiers.

During an attack early Friday, insurgents fired rockets into the Bourj al-Hayat hotel in central Baghdad. The hotel is used by foreign contractors and businessmen. No one was injured in the attack.

Later Friday morning, a homemade bomb exploded on a busy street in the western portion of Baghdad, leading to a U.S. military base. Two Iraqis were injured.

On Thursday, a U.S. army helicopter made a crash landing near the town of Fallujah, killing all nine personnel on board. Some local witnesses say it was downed by hostile fire.

Also Thursday, a military transport plane returned safely to Baghdad airport after being hit by enemy fire.