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Al-Sadr's Shiite Uprising Spreads

Militant cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, whose Shiite militia has been battling U.S. forces across Iraq, warned Monday that he would fight "until the last drop of my blood has been spilled," in his first appearance since the violence began.

The five-day-old uprising by al-Sadr's Mahdi Army began to affect Iraq's crucial oil industry, as pumping to the southern port of Basra — the country's main export outlet — was halted because of militant threats to infrastructure, an official with the South Oil Company said.

About 1.8 million barrels per day, or 90 percent of Iraq's exports, move through Basra, and any shutdown in the flow of Iraq's main money earner would badly hamper reconstruction efforts. Iraq's other export line — from the north to Turkey — is already out of operation.

Clashes intensified Basra, where a British soldier was killed and several others wounded in fighting with militia near the cleric's office Monday, the British Ministry of Defense said. Three militants were killed and more than 10 others wounded, a senior Iraqi police official said.

In the holy city of Najaf, the main scene of fighting, U.S. forces tried once more to drive militiamen out of a sprawling cemetery, and an American tank rattled up to within 400 yards of the Imam Ali Shrine, Najaf's holiest site, which fighters have reportedly been using as a base.

Still U.S. commanders say a sign that locals are starting to turn against the militia, is they no longer risk their lives to drag dead fighters into their homes, reports CBS News Correspondent Kimberly Dozier.

A military officer said, "When the sun came up this morning, there were still bodies laying in the streets. We've never seen that happen before."

Commanders believe it may be because the residents enjoyed the previous two months of calm, and appreciated the sweeping repairs on their streets, carried out by coalition forces.

Al-Sadr's vow to keep fighting was a defiant challenge to Allawi, who visited Najaf on Sunday and called on the Shiite militants to stop fighting.

"I will continue fighting," the young, firebrand cleric told reporters in Najaf. "I will remain in Najaf city until the last drop of my blood has been spilled."

"Resistance will continue and increase day by day," he said. "Our demand is for the American occupation to get out of Iraq. We want an independent, democratic, free country."

In other developments:

  • An Iraqi militant group calling itself the Islamic Jihad Organization attacked the office of Iraq's interim prime minister in Nasiriyah. A video of the assault obtained by the AP shows four masked gunmen forcing the workers out, before pouring what looks to be gasoline on the floors and setting the building on fire. There were no injuries. In the video, a masked man says Prime Minister Ayad Allawi is "subservient to the occupation," and warns Allawi's party colleagues to get out of Nasiriyah.
  • Two Jordanian hostages were freed Monday after two weeks in captivity in Iraq, the son of one of them told The Associated Press. Truck drivers Fayez Saad al-Udwan and Mohammad Ahmed Salama al-Manaya'a are at the Jordanian Field Hospital in Fallujah, a city west of Baghdad, said Mohammad al-Udwan.
  • Two Lebanese hostages have been released in Iraq, the wife of one of them said. Nada Sayour said she had received a call from her husband, Kassem Murqbawi saying he would be home in three days. Murqbawi told her a fellow truck driver who was kidnapped this month was also released. Monday's releases reduces to three the number of Lebanese hostages in Iraq.
  • A militant group threatened to launch a campaign of attacks against ministers and government offices and warned Iraqi state employees to stay away from work. The group accused the "occupation forces" of carrying out a "reckless crusade" against the people of Iraq "in cooperation with their treacherous agents…"
  • Ahmad Chalabi and his nephew Salem Chalabi said Monday that warrants issued for their arrests by Iraq's Central Criminal Court were part of a political conspiracy trumped up by former Saddam Hussein loyalists.
  • Militants who said they belong to a group that has claimed responsibility for kidnappings and killings in Iraq beheaded a man identified only as a Bulgarian in a video posted on the Internet Monday. It was not clear when the video was made and its authenticity could not immediately be verified.
  • A car bomb in Balad Ruz Monday killed at least seven Iraqi policemen in what officials say was an apparent attempt to assassinate the deputy governor of Diyala province.
  • While U.S. and Iraqi forces were trying to quell the eruption of Shiite violence, attacks by Sunni Muslim militants persisted around Baghdad: A suicide car bombing targeting a deputy governor killed six people, and a roadside bomb hit a bus, killing four passengers.
  • The U.S. military also said a U.S. Marine was killed in action Sunday in the western province of Anbar, a hotbed of Sunni militancy. The death brought to at least 927 the number of American troops who have died in Iraq.

    U.S. and Iraqi forces have been trying to rein in al-Sadr to prevent the current violence from expanding on the scale of a widespread revolt his militia launched in April, fighting for two months until a series of truces brought a relative calm.

    At the same time, violence in the insurgency-plagued Sunni regions of Iraq continued. A suicide attacker detonated a station wagon packed with explosives Monday outside the home of Diyala province's deputy governor, Aqil Hamid al-Adili, killing six policemen guarding his home.

    Al-Adili was wounded and taken to a military medical facility after the blast in Balad Ruz, 40 miles northeast of Baghdad. The explosion shattered windows and blew doors off their hinges on the house, wounding a total 17 people — including al-Adili's 9-year-old son, Police Brig. Daoud Mahmoud said.

    It was the latest in a campaign of insurgent attacks targeting officials in Iraq's new government — seen as cooperating with Americans.

    Also Monday, a roadside bomb blew up next to a bus on a main street in the town of Khalidiyah, 70 miles west of Baghdad, killing four passengers and wounding four others, officials said.

    The military reported Monday that a U.S. Marine was killed in action Sunday in Anbar province, a center of Sunni insurgent violence. The death brought to at least 927 the number of American servicemembers who have died in Iraq.

    In a sign of the deterioration of the situation in Najaf, the Polish military returned command in Najaf province and neighboring Qadisiyah province to the U.S. Marines. The Poles, who are leading a force that is supposed to keep up security duties across south-central Iraq, had received command in the two provinces only 10 days ago.

    The Shiite violence began Thursday in Najaf after the truces reached in June collapsed. During the two-month uprising in April, U.S. commanders vowed to "capture or kill" al-Sadr, but later tacitly agreed to let Iraqi authorities deal with the cleric.

    Even amid the fighting, troops appeared to still be keeping a hands-off policy with al-Sadr himself. The senior U.S. officer said al-Sadr "is not an objective; we are not actively pursuing him."

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