Fresh fighting in Iraq holy city

Wext: Sunday, 08.August. @ 00:00:00 CEST

Mijar:

06. 08. 2004 - US helicopters have attacked targets in the Iraqi holy city of Najaf in a second day of fighting there.


They fired rockets at a cemetery near the Imam Ali Shrine in the old city, where militiamen loyal to radical Shia cleric Moqtada Sadr are based.


Columns of thick black smoke have been seen rising from Najaf, and power and telephone lines are reported cut.

Mr Sadr had earlier called for a truce to be restored after fighting between his Mehdi Army militia and US troops.

Seven militiamen and one US soldier were killed in Thursday's fighting in Najaf, and a US helicopter was shot down, injuring two.

Nine civilians were also killed, according to Hussein Hadi, an official at al-Hakeem hospital in Najaf.

And at least two Mehdi Army members were killed in a 15-minute gunfight with British troops in the southern city of Basra on Thursday.

Correspondents say tension had been building in Najaf in recent days and fighting finally erupted on Thursday morning.

The governor of Najaf requested back-up from US marines after the main police station was attacked, the US military said, but a spokesman for Mr Sadr said US forces and Iraqi police had attacked first.

Nassiriya clashes

Meanwhile, Italian forces in the southern city of Nassiriya have been involved in overnight clashes with members of Mr Sadr's Mehdi Army.

The militiamen attacked Italian patrols and other targets - including a power plant and an Iraqi police base - with rocket-propelled grenades, mortars and light arms, the Italian army said.

Local police said four civilians had died in the fighting.

"It has been an extremely tense night and we are maintaining maximum alert," Captain Ettore Sarli, chief spokesman for Italian forces in Nassiriya, told Reuters news agency.

"An Italian task force has control of the centre of Nassiriya and its bridges, and we are seeking mediation with the militia via the governor of the city."

A two-month uprising against US-led coalition forces by Mr Sadr's followers in April and May led to violence across central and southern Iraq.

A truce was agreed in June, but this now appears to have broken down.


Source: BBC










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