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U.S And Iraqi Insurgents Clash In Al-Najaf, Al-Kufah

(file photo) May 28 2004 -- Gunmen opened fire today on U.S. troops in Iraq's holy Shi'a city of Al-Najaf and in the nearby town of Al-Kufah.

At least three Iraqis were killed and two U.S. soldiers were wounded in the clashes, which came despite yesterday's agreement to end a standoff between radical Shi'a cleric Muqtada al-Sadr's militiamen and coalition troops.

But coalition spokesman Dan Senor today expressed hope the agreement will hold: "We need to make a determination whether or not they are just isolated incidents that are the exceptions or whether or not they are symptomatic of a larger problem. But right now, we continue to be hopeful and cautiously optimistic on the macro trend."

Although thousands of Shi'a flocked to Al-Kufah for regular Friday prayers, al-Sadr failed to appear in public to read the sermon.

Elsewhere, 13 buses loaded with released prisoners left the Abu Ghurayb prison near Baghdad. Three Dutch soldiers were injured when their patrol car was fired upon in southern Iraq.