New Clashes in Najaf
3 US Troops Announced Killed
19 Iraqis Dead, 101 Wounded
Dean Yates of Reuters reports that fighting broke out in Najaf again on Monday between US troops and the Mahdi Army militia.
In the heart of Najaf, U.S. forces backed by tanks exchanged fire with militiamen entrenched around the sacred Imam Ali Mosque and an ancient cemetery. Explosions boomed and the crackle of machinegun fire echoed across the city, 160 km (100 miles) south of Baghdad.
A U.S. military spokesman revealed that Mahdi Army fighters had killed three US troops in fighting on Sunday.
Thousands of civilians have marched to Najaf to surround the shrine of Ali as human shields. Reuters quotes one of them, Fadil Hamed, 30, as saying, “I will lie on the ground in front of the tanks, or I will kill the Americans to defend Sadr and Najaf.”
Al-Zaman reports that water and electricity have been cut off in Najaf for a week, leaving the remaining civilians there in dire straits.
Near Amara in the south, the Mahdi Army set fire to an oil well. The main southern pipeline remained closed on Monday because of security concerns, continuing to deny much needed funds to the caretaker government of Iyad Allawi.
Sporadic fighting continued in seven other cities, including Baghdad. The Mahdi Army engaged in fierce clashes in the slums of East Baghdad or Sadr City. In one engagement the militiamen exploded a bomb under a US tank and then set it aflame, but the American crew escaped with minor wounds. “A U.S. helicopter gunship later strafed the street where the tank was hit. Militiamen responded with rocket-propelled grenades and assault rifles.”
Al-Zaman said that 19 Iraqis were killed and 101 wounded in the various clashes around the county in the previous 24 hours.
In the US bombing of Fallujah with warplanes on Monday evening, 1 Iraqi was killed and 17 wounded, according to AFP.
A group calling itself “the Brigades in Defense of the Holy Sites” took captive an Iraqi intelligence officer in revenge for the fighting in Najaf, according to al-Jazeerah.