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Bomb kills 3 at cleric's home

A U.S. soldier on patrol in Iraq in a Humvee all-terrain vehicle.
A U.S. soldier on patrol in Iraq in a Humvee all-terrain vehicle.

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British soldiers die, the U.S. Army kills two Iraqis, the U.N. gets back to work, an unverified claim for responsibility -- Saturday in Iraq.
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Tuesday's bombing continues stepped-up attacks on facilities in Iraq.
August 7 -- Jordanian Embassy in Baghdad bombed, killing 10
August 16 -- Oil pipeline sabotaged in northern Iraq
August 17 -- Water pipes sabotaged in Baghdad
August 19
-- U.N. headquarters in Baghdad hit by truck bomb

NAJAF, Iraq (CNN) -- A bomb blast outside the home of one of Iraq's top Shiite Muslim clerics has killed three people, authorities said.

The explosion occurred at 3:15 p.m. (1215 GMT) Sunday at the home of Shiite leader Ayatollah Mohamad Sa'eed al-Hakim in Najaf, a Shiite spiritual center about 160 kilometers (100 miles) south of Baghdad.

A spokesman for al-Hakim told CNN that two guards outside the building and a worker inside the office were killed and that 10 people -- mostly pedestrians -- were wounded, one seriously.

The ayatollah was walking through a hallway when the blast went off and received minor injuries from glass shards, the spokesman said.

An explosive device detonated inside a gas canister that had been left outside an office where the ayatollah's son was working, the spokesman said.

The explosion is being seen as an attempt to assassinate al-Hakim, CNN's Ben Wedeman said from Najaf.

The ayatollah, who has had fairly constant contact with U.S. officials since before the war, received a death threat last week, his spokesman and Iraqi police said.

The spokesman said al-Hakim and other leading religious figures in Najaf had received threats to leave Najaf or be killed.

Hakim did not report the threat against him, police said.

A police officer told CNN that Sunni fundamentalists were behind the explosion, but that could not be confirmed.

Others said the blast was meant to create friction among the various Shiite factions

The ayatollah's spokesman said al-Hakim and his followers hold the U.S. military responsible for maintaining security in Najaf and therefore hold the Americans indirectly responsible for the attack.

Hakim's cousin, Abdel Aziz al-Hakim, sits on the coalition-appointed Iraqi Governing Council, where he represents another cousin, Ayatollah Mohammad Baqir al-Hakim, head of the Islamic Revolution in Iraq.

Sunday's explosion reverberated throughout Najaf and drew a number of people to the ayatollah's house, where they chanted for his survival and cursed those responsible, the spokesman said.

The house is about half a mile south of the Imam Ali Mosque, a site sacred to Shiites around the world. The mosque is named for the son-in-law of the prophet Mohammed and the first leader of the Shiite community.

'Bomb hits' U.S. vehicle

Meanwhile, a U.S. military vehicle was reportedly hit by an explosion on the Amriyah Bridge west of Baghdad, eyewitnesses told CNN.

The military cordoned off the area, and the eyewitnesses reported injuries. However the U.S. military has not confirmed any information regarding the incident.

Three British soldiers died in an ambush on their vehicle Saturday.
Three British soldiers died in an ambush on their vehicle Saturday.

CNN's Rym Brahimi said that from eyewitness accounts it appeared that some kind of roadside device was triggered, hitting the last vehicle in a convoy of Humvees. That vehicle was on fire, and wounded were taken from the scene, she said.

News of the explosions came as coalition forces searched for the killers of three British servicemen who died in an ambush in the second city of Basra.

Gunshots were fired at the Royal Military Police soldiers Saturday as they made their way through a main street in an armed convoy of two vehicles.

A fourth soldier remained in hospital with serious injuries following the assault.

The soldiers were attacked while driving through central Basra in a civilian four-wheel-drive vehicle and a military Land Rover, according to British military spokesman Maj. Charlie Mayo. (Full story)

They were named by Britain's defense ministry as Maj. Matthew Titchener, 32, and Warrant Officer Colin Wall, 34, both of 150 Provost Company, and Corp. Dewi Pritchard, 35, of 116 Provost Company. All three were serving with the 19 Mechanized Brigade.

The killings are a further blow for Britain's Royal Military Police, known as "Redcaps" after their red berets. The regiment suffered its worst casualty toll for more than 50 years in June when six soldiers were killed. Saturday's deaths raised the toll of British troops killed in the war in Iraq to 49.

CNN correspondents Ben Wedeman, Rym Brahimi and Barbara Starr and producers Marga Ortigas and Ingrid Formanek contributed to this report

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