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Iraqis Take Over Government Building In Al-Basrah

Al-Basrah, 5 April 2004 (RFE/RL) -- The British Defense Ministry says a group of Shi'ite Muslims has taken over a government building in the southern Iraqi city of Al-Basrah.

A spokeswoman for the Ministry of Defense today said that members of the "Sadr Shi'a group walked into a government building and occupied it peacefully overnight."

Other reports said however that armed militants stormed the governor's office and raised a green flag on the roof.

Yesterday, in many Iraqi cities, Shi'ite supporters of cleric Muqtada al-Sadr clashed with troops to denounce the arrest of an aide to the cleric and the closure of the "Al-Hawza" newspaper. U.S. officials closed the paper after accusing it of stirring up anti-American violence.

In Sadr City -- a poor neighborhood of Baghdad -- seven U.S. soldiers were killed and two dozen wounded when Shi'ite militants tried to take over police stations and government offices.

Altogether, at least 90 people have been killed in clashes in Iraq between coalition forces and Shi'ite militants.

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