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Notícies :: guerra
US kills dozens of Iraqis on Najafs doorstep
27 abr 2004
Shia leaders have warned there will be an explosion of anger among the 15 to 16 million Iraqi Shia if US soldiers enter Najaf.
Grand Ayat Allah Ali al-Sistani, Iraq's most revered Shia religious leader, has said if US troops enter Najaf or Karbala, they will cross "a red line" - implying general Shia resistance.
NAJAF, Iraq (Reuters) - U.S. forces have killed dozens of Iraqi fighters near Najaf overnight, hours after Washington issued an ultimatum to a radical cleric to clear his militia from mosques in the holy city.
Local television said on Tuesday wounded people were dying for lack of blood and issued an urgent appeal for donors.
The clashes were the deadliest since Moqtada al-Sadr and his Mehdi Army militia launched a brief revolt against the U.S.-led occupation three weeks ago. They may mark a new phase in American efforts to dislodge him from Najaf, where he has taken refuge among some of the holiest shrines of Shi'ite Islam.
About 64 militiamen were killed, U.S. military spokesman Brigadier General Mark Kimmitt told a news conference, 57 of them in a night-time air strike after U.S. forces spotted an anti-aircraft gun.
Another U.S. official said an AC-130 gunship -- a massive plane that can spew cannon fire and machinegun fire across wide areas -- was used.
Locals said aircraft had destroyed a militia checkpoint outside Kufa, 10 km (six miles) from Najaf, after a firefight. Kimmitt said guerrillas fired rocket-propelled grenades at a tank. Staff at two hospitals counted at least 23 dead and 34 wounded. Some of the casualties did not appear to be guerrillas.
At the funerals of five people killed, mourners chanted "Long live Sadr!" and slogans against the United States and its allies on Iraq's interim Governing Council. Other residents of Najaf voiced anxiety about what might happen next.
Adding to the U.S. burden, Spanish troops quit Najaf as part of a withdrawal decided by the new government in Madrid, where opposition to the occupation runs high and which said on Tuesday all its troops would leave Iraq by May 27.
U.S. troops have been forced to take their place in Najaf.
Bulgarian President Georgi Parvanov demanded that his 450 troops be moved to safety away from the nearby holy city of Kerbala after his convoy was fired on when he went to visit them on Sunday. He said, however, that Bulgarians would stay in Iraq.
In a second flashpoint, the Sunni Muslim town of Falluja, local police took to the streets in force on Tuesday as a deadline expired for guerrillas to hand in heavy weapons.
The U.S. Marines, who have besieged the town for three weeks, had said they would join police on patrols as early as Tuesday. But they did not, and Iraqi police said there would be talks on Wednesday on the joint patrols. The arrival of American troops inside Falluja could still spark major fighting.
Hundreds of Iraqis have died in Falluja, along with many Americans, in one of the bloodiest conflicts in a year.
Washington is struggling to douse these twin challenges to the new order in Baghdad without inflaming anger at civilian casualties before the U.S. authority hands formal sovereignty back to an appointed Iraqi government on June 30.
Najaf, south of the capital, and Falluja, west, have provided acid tests among Iraq's two main Muslim communities.
The long oppressed Shi'ite majority broadly welcomed the U.S. invasion that overthrew Saddam Hussein, a Sunni. But impatience with disruption to daily life has angered many -- though support for Sadr's armed response has been mixed.
Secretary of State Colin Powell told Reuters on Monday that U.S. forces would have to maintain considerable powers after the handover, "which in some ways infringes on what some would call full sovereignty".
LOYALISTS AND RADICALS
In Falluja, U.S. commanders say they face up to 2,000 fighters -- some diehard Saddam loyalists, others trying to reassert Sunni dominance of Iraq, and maybe about 200 foreign Islamic radicals, some possibly linked to al Qaeda.
The Americans are in no hurry to spark an all-out confrontation in the town 50 km (30 miles) west of Baghdad, but hold out little hope the insurgents will surrender their arms.
Witnesses said U.S. forces had fought guerrillas beside a highway north of Falluja for around an hour early on Tuesday.
On Monday, Marines called in air strikes after skirmishes around a mosque left eight insurgents and a soldier dead.
Civilian casualties and the sight of refugees fleeing the city of 300,000 have dismayed many Iraqis. The U.S. offensive began in response to the murder of four American contractors.
Open warfare in Najaf would carry even greater risks for U.S. efforts to win support among the Shi'ite majority.
U.S. administrator Paul Bremer calls the situation there "explosive" and issued an ultimatum on Monday to Sadr to pull his men and weapons out of mosques and schools immediately.
Sadr, a 30-year-old firebrand who draws authority from his late father, an ayatollah murdered by Saddam's forces, is wanted for the killing last year of another Shi'ite cleric. He has vowed to mount suicide attacks if the Americans try to get him.
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