U.S. and Iraqi forces have launched a major operation in Iraq's holy city of Najaf and nearby Kufa to crush an uprising by militiamen loyal to radical Shi'ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr.
The U.S. military says its operations are aimed at isolating the militia and preventing it from using the mosques as a base of operations. However, the military says its targets do not include the Imam Ali Mosque or the Kufa mosque.
In Najaf, black smoke billowed overhead as U.S. warplanes pounded militia positions, including targets near Moqtada al-Sadr's house. Shops were closed and many civilians fled the city.
In Baghdad, Shi'ite militiamen attacked a police station, and in Basra, supporters threatened to blow up oil pipelines if U.S. forces do not withdraw from Najaf.
There were also protests against the military action in both Basra and Baghdad.
Information for this story is provided by AP and Reuters.