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U.S. Forces Fight Shi'ite Insurgents In Holy Cities

Al-Sadr fighters 7 May 2004 -- U.S. forces have battled militiamen loyal to Shi'ite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr in Karbala and outside Al-Najaf. Some reports said U.S. troops destroyed al-Sadr's office in Karbala before taking up positions in the city center.

Earlier today, U.S. troops seized the governor's office in another major Shi'ite city, Al-Najaf. U.S. forces also exchanged heavy fire with al-Sadr's militia east of the city killing, the U.S. military said, some 40 fighters.

The moves came shortly after the U.S. top administrator for Iraq, L. Paul Bremer, announced that he has appointed a new governor for the Al-Najaf region. Bremer said the new governor, Adnan al-Zurufi, will have U.S. support to recruit, train, and equip new Iraqi police and civil defense force.

"The people of the Middle Euphrates [the Najaf region] have asked the coalition for help and we will provide it," Bremer said. "We will do all we can. But, only Iraqis can provide the leadership necessary to reinstate and maintain the rule of law. The governate of Najaf must have a strong Iraqi administrator. Governor Zurufi is such a man."

Earlier today, a suicide bomber killed at least five Iraqis and a U.S. soldier at an entrance to the U.S. Baghdad headquarters. (international agencies)