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U.S. Kills 32 Iraqis In Kufa, Including 20 In Mosque
KUFA, Iraq, May 23 (IslamOnline.net & News Agencies) – U.S. occupation troops gunned down on Sunday, May 23, 32 Iraqis in the Shiite holy city of Kufa, including 20 inside a mosque.
"Tanks crashed through the gates of the mosque compound, during the night and soldiers entered while helicopters hovered overhead," said Hussein Yasser, 32, who lives near the Selah mosque which saw the killings.
Bloodstains were seen on the ground of the mosque compound, along with spent cartridges and the prints of tank tracks, while the walls were riddled with bullet strikes, reported Agence France-Presse (AFP).
A hole is seen at the entrance of the Sahla mosque in the holy city of Kufa (AFP)
Neighboring houses also showed evidence of the fighting, and residents said they were fired on from helicopters.
Earlier, doctors said 54 wounded people had been taken to two hospitals in the city.
Ten of the dead and 11 wounded were taken to the Furat al-Awsat hospital in Kufa, said official Mohammed Abdel Kazem.
At the Hakim hospital, an official said 10 dead had been taken to the morgue and 43 were wounded.
About a dozen houses close to the mosque were damaged.
A U.S. spokesman said all those slain in the mosque were militiamen loyal to firebrand Shiite leader Moqtada Sadr.
A later statement claimed the U.S. Army's 1st Armored Division and Iraqi security forces had come under fire from the insurgents in several locations.
"The task force and ISF (Iraqi security forces) returned fire, killing 32 attackers," it said.
"An estimated 20 Moqtada militia were killed when coalition soldiers returned fire after being attacked with rocket propelled grenade and small arms fire during a raid on the Selah mosque in Kufa," a military spokesman claimed.
Major General Martin Dempsey, who commands the 1st AD, claimed they have not entered the mosque.
"We have no intention of entering the shrines."
However, the Associated Press quoted Maj. David Gercken, the division spokesman, as saying they entered after Iraqi forces "cleared" the mosque.
"There were American forces in that local mosque last night," Gercken said. "They went in after the Iraqi forces."