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Fighting Continues In Iraqi Holy City

23 August 2004 -- Fighting continued today in the Iraqi city of Al-Najaf between U.S. and Iraqi government forces and supporters of radical Shi'ite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr.

Some 15 explosions were reported in the area around the Imam Ali shrine, which a group of al-Sadr's armed supporters have been using as a base.

U.S. tanks approached to within 250 meters of the mosque and missiles and mortars pounded suspected positions of al-Sadr's Imam Al-Mahdi Army in the cemetery near the shrine.

The U.S. military said it was not engaged in any offensive actions and was only responding to fire coming from the area around the shrine.

Under an agreement, al-Sadr is suppose to hand over control of the shrine to supporters of senior Shi'ite cleric Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani.

Al-Sadr spokesman Sheikh Ahmad al-Shaybani said there was still contact with al-Sistani's supporters but there were differences about the handover due to the security situation in Al-Najaf.


Factbox: Iraq's Holy City of Al-Najaf

For the latest news on Iraq, see RFE/RL's webpage on "The New Iraq".

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