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Coalition Troops, Al-Sadr Militants Clash Across Iraq

Al-Sadr fighters in Al-Basrah 6 August 2004 -- Coalition troops battled militiamen loyal to radical Shi'a cleric Muqtada al-Sadr in several Iraqi cities today. The fighting began in the holy city of Al-Najaf and has since spread to other Shi'a areas across the country.

U.S. helicopter gunships attacked militants in Al-Najaf, while Italian and British soldiers battled militants in Al-Nasiriyah, Al-Basrah, and Amarah in southern Iraq.

The U.S. military says two Marines were killed in fighting around Al-Najaf.

The Iraqi Health Ministry says some 20 people were killed during fighting yesterday and early today between U.S. troops and al-Sadr militants in Baghdad.

The U.S. military says it has killed an estimated 300 insurgents in the past two days of fighting. An al-Sadr spokesman denied that figure, saying 36 fighters had died.

The clashes are the most intense between al-Sadr supporters and U.S.-led coalition forces since a truce was called in June. Mahmud al-Sudani, a spokesman for al-Sadr, said, "If the other party is willing to restore things as they were before the shattering of the truce, we are ready to negotiate with the interim Iraqi government to solve all the pending issues."

Al-Sadr blamed the United States for all the violence in Iraq in a sermon read on his behalf today in the Kufa mosque near Al-Najaf. (agencies)