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(archive photo) 5 May 2004 -- U.S.-led forces battled Iraqi Shi'ite Muslim militiamen loyal to rebel cleric Muqtada al-Sadr in the holy city of Karbala early today.

Followers of al-Sadr fired mortars, rocket-propelled grenades, and machine guns at U.S. and Bulgarian positions shortly after midnight local time in the town 110 kilometers southwest of Baghdad. Reuters news agency said that the soldiers returned fire and the exchanges lasted until dawn.

A U.S. military spokesman confirmed that there was fighting but provided no details.

Earlier Shi'a political leaders called on al-Sadr to disarm, saying that they will find their own solution to the confrontation between the cleric and U.S.-led forces in the holy cities of Al-Najaf and Karbala. They said the two cities should be disarmed and given a Vatican-like status.

The coalition military said that a U.S. soldier died in the Karbala fighting and a physician said that the fighting killed at least two al-Sadr fighters.

(Reuters/dpa/AP)
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