British Defense Secretary in Iraq as death toll from clashes in Kut rises
British Defense Secretary Des Browne arrived Wednesday in Basra for an unannounced visit to Iraq. According to the AP, the Ministry of Defense has not given any details of Browne's visit beyond confirming his arrival Wednesday.
Meanwhile, at least 17 people have been killed, including five children, in fierce clashes between gunmen and Iraqi and US forces in the Shiite city of Kut, a local medic told AFP Wednesday. On Tuesday, Iraqi police said at least 10 people died in the clashes which broke out during a raid in three neighbourhoods of the city to arrest wanted Shiite militiamen.
The districts -- Al-Ezza, Al-Jihad and Anwar Sadr -- are known strongholds of Mahdi Army militia members loyal to Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, the officer said. Earlier Wednesday, the US military announced its forces killed several militants who attacked Iraqi troops in Kut.
The military said Iraqi forces were patrolling the city on Tuesday when they were attacked by several "enemy fighters". The Iraqi forces requested assistance from the US forces who provided ground and air support.
Also on Wednesday, two Iraqi civilians were killed and 10 others wounded when a roadside bomb exploded near a passing U.S. military patrol, local police said.