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Bremer warns of 'explosive' Najaf
by BBC
Sunday Apr 25th, 2004 10:02 AM
A highly dangerous situation has been developing in the Iraqi holy city of Najaf, the top US administrator warns.
Paul Bremer's spokesman said militants were stockpiling weapons and ammunition in mosques, shrines and schools.

Iraqi citizens must make it clear they will not tolerate this, Dan Senor told reporters in Baghdad.

But there are no immediate plans to send in troops to arrest Shia cleric Moqtada Sadr blamed for the unrest, a US military spokesman said.

The spokesman, Lt Gen Mark Kimmitt, was unable to confirm reports by the Associated Press news agency that US troops were likely to enter parts of Najaf soon.

AP quoted a US commander as saying US troops would go in, but would stay away from sensitive holy sites in the city centre.

Falluja deal

A similar message has been sent to Iraqis in the Sunni city of Falluja, Mr Senor said.

He said holy places there had been used to stockpile weapons and even ambulances had been used as "accessory to violence".

US President George W Bush has spoken to his top general in the Middle East to discuss security in Iraq, particularly in Falluja.

A new deal was reached on Saturday to begin joint coalition patrolling with local Iraqis in the western city from 27 April, when anyone seen possessing a weapon will be considered a "hostile target".

US marines launched an assault on the city on 5 April, following the murder of four American security contractors there at the end of March.

The troops say their assault could resume unless insurgents give up their heavy weapons.

The New York Times reported on Sunday that Mr Bush and his senior aides were expected to decide this week whether to order a resumption of the offensive in Falluja.

Children in crossfire

In ongoing violence elsewhere on Sunday, a US soldier was killed in a roadside blast in Baghdad, and several people, including children, were hit during a subsequent gun battle.

After the bomb exploded in eastern Baghdad, US troops evacuated the dead soldier, Gen Kimmitt said.

Coalition troops who later sought to recover the humvee vehicle damaged in the blast returned fire after being targeted from rooftops.

"Civilians, apparently including children, were caught in the crossfire," the US military said.

Elsewhere, four Iraqis were killed and 15 wounded in the northern city of Mosul during several near-simultaneous rocket and mortar attacks on civilian and police targets, the US-led coalition said.

The buildings targeted included a hotel, a hospital, a police building and a local television station.