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Fighting Persists In Iraqi Cities

U.S. soldiers in Iraq (file photo) 23 May 2004 -- Fighting between U.S. troops and Iraqi insurgents has continued in several Iraqi cities, international media reported today.

A U.S. Army statement today said 32 insurgents were killed in clashes in the holy city of Kufa, where U.S. soldiers backed by tanks fought with the Iraqi forces near the Sahla Mosque.

A senior U.S. officer, Major General Martin Dempsey, said U.S. forces have taken care not to damage Shi'ite shrines, although militiamen are using them as firing positions.

In the nearby city of Al-Najaf, reports quoted local hospital staff as saying 14 Iraqis have been killed in similar fighting.

Insurgents killed two U.S. soldiers and wounded five others near the city of Al-Fallujah in an ambush. A vehicle apparently loaded with explosives blew up as a U.S. convoy passed by.

Shi'ite cleric and militia leader Muqtada al-Sadr, who is wanted for suspected involvement in the slaying of a rival cleric in 2003, used his weekly Friday sermon on 21 May to urge his supporters to resist U.S. coalition forces regardless of what happens to him.

Al-Fallujah has been the scene of intermittent fighting since Iraqi radicals killed four U.S. civilians there in March. The U.S. military said today it has provided Iraqi authorities with the names of 25 people it is seeking in connection with the killings.