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Coalition Forces, Iraqis Suffer Losses In Clashes

6 April 2004 -- Coalition troops clashed with insurgents throughout Iraq today, on a third day of violence sparked by protests in support of an influential Shi'ite Muslim cleric.

Iraqis and coalition troops both suffered casualties in the fighting. A Ukrainian soldier died in an attack in the city of Al-Kut, south of Baghdad. Italian soldiers clashed with insurgents in Al-Nasiriyah, leaving 15 Iraqis dead, as a Bulgarian and Polish contingent came under attack in Karbala, leaving several wounded. At least seven U.S. troops were reported killed in operations over the past two days.

Meanwhile, U.S. forces were carrying out search operations in the Sunni stronghold of Al-Fallujah, seen as a response to the killing and mutilation of four U.S. civilians there last week.

The upsurge in violence comes after the U.S.-led coalition issued an arrest warrant for Shi'ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr in connection with the killing of a rival cleric last year.

The U.S. civil administrator for Iraq, L. Paul Bremer, told the U.S. television network ABC that those responsible for the violence do not represent the Shi'ite majority in Iraq.

"It is not a Shi'a uprising," Bremer said. "It is a militia, an illegal militia run by an outlaw. A group of people who have attacked, first and foremost, Iraqis -- Iraqi police, Iraqi Army, the Iraqi civil defense force, and coalition forces, and Americans. And we will deal with them."

In Washington, U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said coalition commanders in Iraq have not asked for reinforcements to fight growing unrest, but he said more troops will be sent if needed.