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Al-Sadr Militiamen Attack British in Basra - 2004-05-08


Militiamen in Iraq loyal to radical Shi'ite Muslim cleric Moqtada al-Sadr have launched a series of attacks on British forces in the southern city of Basra.

Reports from Basra say several hundred members of Mr. al-Sadr's (militia, known as the) Mehdi Army, armed with assault rifles and rocket-propelled grenades, took to the streets of Iraq's second-largest city (today/ Saturday), attacking British patrols and government buildings.

British commanders sent reinforcements to the center of Basra, where a large crowd had gathered near the headquarters of the Southern Oil Company. British troops also surrounded Mr. al-Sadr's office in Basra.

Further north, in the town of Amara, British troops stormed an office of the Sadr movement, triggering a fierce gunbattle.

A British military spokesman says two coalition soldiers were slightly wounded.

Mr. Sadr has been holed up in the holy Shi'ite city of Najaf, where U.S. troops killed a dozen of his followers Friday after coming under fire while on patrol. Mortars were also fired at the governor's office in the city.

U.S. troops also clashed with Sadr militiamen in the holy city of Karbala, killing eight fighters.

Moqtada al-Sadr has been leading a month-long insurgency against the U.S. -led coalition.

In the northern Iraqi city of Mosul, a roadside bomb killed four Iraqi policemen and wounded another. The policemen were on patrol in Mosul, whose population is predominantly Kurdish.

South of Baghdad, a Polish and an Algerian journalist were killed in a drive-by shooting and bomb blast Friday. Another Pole was wounded in the attack. A military spokesman (for the Polish-led coalition force in southern Iraq) said the three men worked for a Polish television station.

Information for this report is provided by AP, AFP and Reuters.

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