Iraq: US claims 300 Shiite fighters killed in Najaf
American helicopters fired on fighters loyal to Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr in the holy city of Najaf on Friday, the second day of fighting there, witnesses said.
The U.S. helicopters attacked Shiite fighters hiding in a cemetery near the Imam Ali Shrine in the old city at Najaf's center. Smoke could be seen rising from the area.
Battles between the two sides since fighting began on Thursday killed at least 10 people and wounded 40 others, according to Hussein Hadi of Najaf General Hospital official.
According to the US Army, U.S. and Iraqi forces have killed about 300 Iraq fighters in two days in Najaf. Battles in other Shiite areas of the country has killed dozens more. Two U.S. Marines and an American soldier were killed in Najaf on Thursday, and 12 troops were wounded, the military said.
Clashes also broke out between U.S. troops and Shiite fighters north of Baghdad in Samarra, where at least two people died, hospital officials said. In the southern city of Nasiriyah, Italian soldiers exchanged automatic weapons-fire with Iraqi fighters who attacked their positions and a police station, an Italian military spokesman said.
In Baghdad, at least 26 people were killed and 90 wounded during fighting between US troops and Iraqi security forces against the Shiite fighters in Sadr City, medics said.
The Sadr General Hospital said 18 bodies had been brought in and 73 wounded, including two women and four children.
In the Al-Shuader hospital, eight people were reported killed and 17 wounded. Two other hospitals reported 10 wounded between them.
Earlier, fighters loyal to al-Sadr wounded 15 American troops in four separate attacks, the US command said Friday.
The attacks took place over a six-hour period late Thursday night, the military said, as separate fighting with al-Sadr's Mahdi Army reported in the holy Shiite city of Najaf, south of the capital.
The military had earlier reported seven US soldiers wounded in violence in Baghdad Thursday.
In one attack in eastern Baghdad, Shiite fighters fired a rocket-propelled grenade at American soldiers "while they were inspecting a civil military project aimed at improving the living conditions in Sadr City," the statement said. Five soldiers were injured.
Half an hour later, fighters launched "a coordinated attack" with grenades and small arms in central Baghdad, injuring seven troops.
In the northeast of the city, al Sadr's supporters attacked a US patrol, wounding two soldiers. And in eastern Baghdad, another soldier was wounded by small arms fire.
Fighting between US troops and al-Sadr's followers across Iraq Thursday killed at least 20 Iraqis and one US soldier.
"We are deeply disappointed that the Mahdi militia has brought fighting back to the good people of Sadr City," said Col. Robert "Abe" Abrams, commander of the 1st Cavalry Division's 1st Brigade Combat Team, headquartered in eastern Baghdad.
After nightfall Thursday, al-Sadr's side said it wanted to restore the truces that have kept a relative calm for months.
According to The AP, al-Sadr "announced that we are committed to the truce and that (U.S.) forces must honor the truce," Ahmed al-Shaibany, a spokesman for al Sadr said. If U.S. forces do not agree, "then the firing and igniting of the revolution will continue." (albawaba.com)
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