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Sadr Gunmen Attack U.K. Troops in Basra
BASRA (Reuters) - Hundreds of Shi'ite militiamen loyal to rebel Iraqi cleric Moqtada al-Sadr took to the streets of the British-controlled southern city of Basra on Saturday, witnesses said.
They said the militiamen, armed with assault rifles and rocket-propelled grenades, took over several areas of the city and were manning checkpoints on the streets.
A British military spokesman said he was aware of "disturbances" in Basra and added that large crowds, including some with arms, were gathering in the city center near the headquarters of the South Oil Company.
The spokesman also confirmed reports of clashes between coalition forces and gunmen of Sadr's Mehdi Army militia in the city of Amara, 180 km (115 miles) north of Basra.
He said one soldier was slightly wounded in the fighting. Mehdi Army militiamen killed two U.S. soldiers and wounded at least three British soldiers in clashes there a week ago.
Sadr and his followers, who rose up against the U.S.-led occupation a month ago, are under increasing pressure in the holy city of Najaf, where U.S. forces are tightening the noose around the firebrand leader who is wanted for the killing of a rival Shi'ite cleric.
Sadr has denied any role in the murder.
BASRA, Iraq (AP) - Gunmen loyal to a radical Shiite cleric attacked British troops in the southern city of Basra on Saturday, a day after the cleric's top aide in the city offered a reward for the capture or killing of coalition soldiers.
The black-garbed militiamen of cleric Muqtada al-Sadr moved in large numbers through the streets of the city, assaulting the governor's building and opening fire on British patrols in several neighborhoods. A rocket-propelled grenade was fired at the U.S.-led coalition headquarters, witnesses said.
British troops arrived to reinforce the guards at the governor's building and took control, witnesses said.
At least one person was wounded, but the full extent of casualties was not immediately known.
Al-Sadr's al-Mahdi Army militia controls the holy Shiite cities of Najaf, Kufa and Karbala, and has clashed with U.S. and other coalition troops over the last several weeks.
The fighting came a day after al-Sadr's top aide in Basra, Sheik Abdul-Sattar al-Bahadli, told worshippers during Friday prayers that $350 would be given to anyone who captures a British soldier and offered $150 for killing one. He also said Iraqis who take female soldiers can keep them as slaves.