Shiites and other Iraqi resistance fighters challenged the U.S.-led occupation forces on two fronts Tuesday, in the south and in the city of Fallujah.
At least Sixty-four Iraqis and two occupation soldiers died in the clashes Tuesday, The AP reported.
In Fallujah, US Marines drove into the center of the city under heavy fire before pulling back before nightfall. Hospital officials said eight Iraqis died Tuesday and 20 were injured, including women and children.
U.S. warplanes firing rockets razed four houses in Fallujah late Tuesday, witnesses said. A doctor said 26 Iraqis, including women and children, were killed and 30 injured in the air-strike. The rockets destroyed the houses in two neighborhoods in the city after nightfall, the witnesses said.
U.S. occupation authorities also launched a crackdown on Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr and his militia following riots in Baghdad and cities and towns to the south.
State Department deputy spokesman Adam Ereli said al-Sadr and his followers were not representative of a religious cause but of "political gangsterism."
In the latest U.S. deaths, five Marines were killed Monday - one in Fallujah and the others on the western outskirts of Baghdad - and five U.S. soldiers were killed in attacks in Baghdad, Kirkuk and Mosul on Monday and Tuesday. Eight Americans were killed in Sadr City, Baghdad on Sunday.
Fighting in the southern cities of Nasiriyah, Kut, Karbala and Amarah and in a northern Baghdad neighborhood killed 30 Iraqis, occupation officials said.
Fearing a U.S. move to arrest him, al-Sadr on Tuesday left a fortress-like mosque in the city of Kufa, south of Baghdad, where he had been holed up for days, his aides said.
Al-Sadr declared he was prepared to die to oust the Americans. He urged his followers to resist foreign forces.
"I'm prepared to have my own blood shed for what is holy to me," he said. (Albawaba.com)
© 2004 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com)