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Explosions Shake Iraqi City of Najaf - 2004-08-20


Explosions rocked the Iraqi city of Najaf late Thursday, hours after Iraq's interim prime minister issued an ultimatum to radical cleric Moqtada al-Sadr for his militia to disarm.

Blasts shook the area around the Imam Ali Shrine and the city's cemetery where Shi'ite fighters are located. U.S. warplanes were seen overhead.

Shortly after the explosions started, an aide to Moqtada al-Sadr said the cleric had instructed his militia to turn over the keys to the shrine to religious authorities.

Earlier in the day, Iraqi Prime Minister Iyad Allawi made what he called his "final call" for the militia to disarm and leave the shrine. On Wednesday, Moqtada al-Sadr indicated he would agree to a peace proposal, but a Thursday mortar attack killed seven policemen.

In a separate development, witnesses say U.S. warplanes also bombed targets in the central Iraqi city of Fallujah early Friday.

Information for this report is provided by AP and Reuters.

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