American soldier dies as scores killed in Ashura clashes
An American soldier died when a roadside bomb went off near his vehicle during combat operations north of Baghdad, the US military said in a statement on Saturday. The attack occurred on Friday, the statement said, according to AFP.
Meanwhile, Iraqi troops and police fought running battles with gunmen from a Shiite cult in two southern cities on Friday in which at least 50 people were killed and some 100 wounded, officials said. Police said the head of the so-called "Soldiers of Heaven" cult in Basra had been killed in the fighting.
The battles took place while the Iraqi authorities have stepped up security as Shiites gather to mark Ashura - martyrdom anniversary of the third Shiite Imam, Hussein Ibn Ali. Up to two million pilgrims are expected to gather on Saturday in the city of Karbala for the ritual's climax.
Major-General Abdul Jalil Khalaf, the Basra provincial police chief, said that dozens of people had been killed in Basra, Iraq's second largest city, where gunmen staged a series of hit-and-run raids using heavy machine guns. Iraqi authorities said at least 36 people were reported killed in Basra and at least 10 in Nasiriyah.