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U.S. Skirmishes With Iraqi Militia

U.S. forces clashed with Shiite Muslim militiamen in Kufa, killing at least five Iraqis and injuring 14 others, hospital officials said Tuesday.

The clashes took place about sundown Monday on the southern end of Kufa and lasted for about an hour.

Kufa is located close to Najaf, where radical cleric Muqtada al-Sadr took refuge last month after U.S. authorities announced they were seeking him in the assassination last year of a moderate cleric.

In Najaf, about a thousand Iraqis marched through the street, calling for the radical cleric and his followers to leave.

U.S. troops have been involved in sporadic clashes with al-Sadr's gunmen for weeks. But the Americans have avoided an all-out assault on Najaf to avoid inflaming Shiite passions.

When the group passed by al-Sadr's office, his militia took up positions and fired into the air. But there was no clash, and the protest continued without incident.

In other developments:

  • Gunmen attacked a U.S.-run civilian convoy in Iraq's western desert and some personnel were unaccounted for, U.S. officials said Tuesday. The officials said the convoy was operated by a subcontractor of KBR, or Kellogg, Brown & Root, which is in turn a subsidiary of Halliburton. An unknown number of vehicles were destroyed in the attack near the town of Rutba, 230 miles west of Baghdad, the officials said.
  • The U.S. military says an American civilian was found dead over the weekend near a highway overpass in Baghdad. There were signs of trauma on the corpse. The man hasn't been identified. A military spokesman says he wasn't connected with the U.S. military or civilian government mission in Iraq.
  • Armed people claiming to be members of a radical Shiite Muslim militia threatened suicide attacks on U.S. forces and their allies in Iraq, in a videotape released on Tuesday. The video, received by Associated Press Television News, showed about 10 black-cloaked men and women posing with grenade launchers and Kalashnikovs, while a female voice and then a male voice read threatening messages in Arabic.
  • The Netherlands has lost its first soldier in Iraq. A Dutch government official says the soldier was killed in a grenade attack Monday night as he and several other soldiers patrolled a bridge in the southern city of Samawah. Another soldier was wounded.
  • One Russian worker was killed and two were taken hostage in Iraq, the Foreign Ministry said Tuesday, and it renewed calls for Russian nationals to leave. The three were employees of the Interenergoservis company working at the Southern Baghdad power station.
  • Iraq's oil minister says exports have fallen by 30 percent because of a weekend bombing along a southern pipeline. But he expects the exports to return to normal levels within 24 hours. The attack signals that such facilities in once-quiet southern Iraq could now be a target for insurgents.
  • A Polish military base came under mortar fire and a multinational patrol was ambushed Monday night, but there were no injuries or damage, a military spokesman said Tuesday. Several mortar shells were fired at Camp Lima in Karbala shortly after midnight but a coalition patrol dispatched immediately to the firing positions found that the attackers had already fled, Maj. Slawomir Walenczykowski said by telephone from Camp Babylon, the headquarters for the Polish-led international force.

    Residents of Baghdad's Shiite neighborhood Sadr City on Tuesday began rebuilding the headquarters of a militant Shiite Muslim cleric which was destroyed in a tank and helicopter attack by U.S. forces.

    The building, used as a district headquarters by forces of al-Sadr, was destroyed about midnight Sunday during clashes between U.S. troops and his al-Mahdi Army militia.

    At the urging of the al-Mahdi Army, local Shiites brought bricks, cement and gypsum to the site. Parts of the building had already been repaired by midday.

    "The city people pulled up their socks when they heard this sorrowful incident," Sheik Malik Swadi said. "Together they embarked on rebuilding the office."

    He said the plan was to "revive the building as it is a religious office rather than a center for terror. We wonder why the Americans bombed it...Rebuilding this office is a challenge to the Americans. If they destroy it 10 times, we will revive it 10 times."

    The attack on the office occurred at the end of daylong fighting between U.S. troops and the al-Mahdi Army, which the U.S.-led coalition has vowed to disband. Its leader, al-Sadr, is sought in the assassination last year of a rival cleric in Najaf.

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