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26 April 2004 -- Intense fighting erupted in Iraq today at a mosque in Al-Fallujah, resulting in the death of one U.S. soldier and eight insurgents.

U.S. Brigadier General Mark Kimmitt said eight coalition soldiers were injured in the fighting, which erupted after militants fired on coalition troops from inside the mosque. He said the mosque was damaged during the ensuing response.

"The coalition forces became pinned down by the enemy fire and requested additional support," Kimmitt said. "A quick reaction force which included air and tank support arrived at the scene and directed suppressing fire on the mosque, killing eight enemy fighters and damaging the infrastructure of the mosque."

In Baghdad, two U.S. soldiers were killed and five wounded when an explosion leveled part of a building during a search for suspicious chemicals.

In Al-Najaf, some 200 U.S. troops rolled into a base some 6 kilometers from the city's holy Shi'ite shrines to replace withdrawing Spanish troops.

Iraq's top U.S. administrator, L. Paul Bremer, said today that weapons were being stockpiled in mosques, shrines, and schools in Al-Najaf, and warned that the coalition will not "tolerate the situation."

In other developments, the Dubai-based Al-Arabiya television station broadcast footage of three Italians held captive in Iraq.

Their captors said the hostages will be executed in five days if Italians do not protest Italy's involvement in Iraq.

(Reuters/AFP/dpa/AP/RFE)
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