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Al-Sadr said fighters defending Islam (file photo) 10 August 2004 -- There are reports that fighting between U.S. forces and fighters loyal to radical Shi'ite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr are continuing today for the sixth consecutive day in the Iraqi holy city of Al-Najaf.

Late yesterday, UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan said he is "extremely concerned" about the fighting. His statement came as the U.S. Marines said they had killed about 360 fighters since the fighting in Al-Najaf started on 5 August.

Al-Sadr yesterday vowed to continue his resistance until all foreign troops leave Iraq. He called the fighting by his Imam Al-Mahdi Army fighters "honorable" and in defense of Islam.

"I am telling my brothers, the Al-Mahdi Army, that I am one of you and I will keep resisting. I will stay in holy Al-Najaf and will never leave. I will stay here and defend holy Al-Najaf because it is the holiest city and will stay here until my last drop of blood," al-Sadr said.

Also yesterday, U.S. and Polish military officials said Poland has given command of the provinces of Al-Najaf and neighboring Qadisiyah to U.S. Marines due to the deteriorating security situation. A multinational force led by Poland will continue to be in charge in the provinces of Babil, Karbala, and Wasit.

In southern Iraq, one British soldier was killed yesterday during fighting with members of al-Sadr's militia.

(Reuters/AFP/AP)
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