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Sadr Uprising Reignites: US Copter Downed In Najaf, Sadr declares War On British In Basra
US occupation forces have clashed with al-Mahdi Army in Najaf leaving three civilians dead and 12 wounded.
In the fighting on Thursday, a US marine helicopter was shot down, a US Army spokesman said.
The spokesman said several members of the crew were wounded when it was hit. He gave no other details
In heavy clashes between al-Sadr's al-Mahdi army and US troops, one person was killed and four people seriously wounded when five rockets were fired at the general hospital, a health ministry official said.
Hospital staff hit
All five casualties were hospital staff, said doctor Ali Hanun in Baghdad. It was not immediately clear who fired the rockets at the hospital.
Earlier, the ministry reported that two people were killed and eight others wounded in the heavy fighting.
The encounter took place at Thawrat-al-Ishrin square where US helicopter gunships, armoured vehicles mortar rounds, and heavy explosives were in action, reported our correspondent Uday al-Katib.
Light and medium weapons as well as mortar shells were used in the clashes with Muqtada al-Sadr's forces which started near major police stations early on Thursday. The clashes were continuing well into the morning, the correspondent said.
The fighting, which killed a man and a woman, broke out near the 1920 Revolution Square at 12.30am (2030 GMT).
Heavy clashes took place at Thawrat-al-Ishrin square where US helicopter gunships, armoured vehicles mortar rounds, and heavy explosives were in action, reported our correspondent.
Clashes broke out for a second time at 3 am on Thursday morning, he said, adding that fighting was raging with mortar rounds landing in some areas and loud explosions heard in parts of Najaf town.
The sound of artillery as well as medium and light machine gun fire was heard along with rocket-propelled grenades, he said.
A large number of US occupation troops accompanied by Iraqi police had advanced into the town, the correspondent said.
The roads in the town are deserted and traffic has come to a standstill, al-Katib reported.
Aljazeera team shot at
"We have no access to more detailed reports on the fighting as the Aljazeera team was shot at when we tried to take a closer look at the scene and we were forced to draw back," the correspondent said.
Najaf governor Adnan al-Zurfi requested back-up from US marines after the main police station was attacked for a second time in two hours, the US occupation military said.
Agencies quoting a US military statement said: "A significant number of aggressors ... began attacking the station with heavy machine guns, rocket-propelled grenades, mortars and small arms ... after an initial attack on the police station around 1am was unsuccessful."
On Wednesday, the al-Mahdi Army also released five of six Iraqi police officers taken captive in recent days, the military said.
The fighting has come just three days after clashes outside al-Sadr's home between the al-Mahdi Army and US occupation troops left one civilian dead and nine people wounded, including six of the al-Mahdi Army.
Al-Sadr's office accused US troops of trying to arrest the Shia Muslim leader, but the US military said a marine patrol was attacked by an al-Mahdi fighter as it drove by.
Although the June truce allowed Iraqi police to restore its presence in Najaf, the area around the city's holiest shrine, the mausoleum of Imam Ali, remains an al-Sadr stronghold.
Aljazeera + Agencies
A US helicopter has been shot down in the Iraqi holy city of Najaf, wounding two crewmen, the US military says.
The incident occurred as US troops and Iraqi security forces fought fierce battles in Najaf with supporters of the radical Shia cleric Moqtada Sadr.
A US military spokesman said the crew had been evacuated from the area where the UH-1 helicopter was shot down.
In Basra, Sadr supporters reportedly declared a "jihad" on British forces after four comrades were arrested.
"We will wage jihad [holy war] and war against the foreign troops, not against police and Iraqi forces," said Sheikh Saad al-Basri, quoted by the AFP news agency.
Mr Basri accused British forces of arresting four Sadr supporters in order to "create in Basra the state of crisis that exists in Najaf".
Earlier, at least five people were killed and 20 others hurt in a car bomb at a police station south of Baghdad.
The blast occurred in the town of Mahawil near Hilla, about 70 km (40 miles) from the Iraqi capital.
A suicide bomber drove a minibus up to the police station and detonated it, an official said.
Tensions high for days
In Najaf, the town governor had requested back-up from US marines after the main police station was attacked overnight, the US military said.
The marines called the attack a violation of a June ceasefire agreement that was designed to put an end to an uprising by Mr Sadr's militia.
A spokesman for Mr Sadr, said US forces and Iraqi police had attacked first.
The BBC's Caroline Hawley, in Baghdad, says tensions had been brewing in Najaf for days before the latest outbreak of fighting.
Clashes began overnight, but intensified late on Thursday morning, US military officials told our correspondent.
The helicopter had been carrying away a US marine injured in the fighting when it came under small arms fire, our correspondent says.
Iraq's health ministry said at least two people were killed in the fighting and eight wounded.
BASRA, IRAQ: Shiite Muslim leader Moqtada Sadr on Thursday declared holy war against British forces based in Iraq's main southern city of Basra after four of their comrades were arrested.
"We will wage jihad (holy war) and war against the foreign troops, not against police and Iraqi forces," said Sheikh Saad al-Basri, Sadr's representative in the overwhelmingly Shiite city.
"However, if they (the Iraqi personnel) fight on the side of the occupiers, we will strike them harshly."
Basri accused British forces of arresting four Sadr supporters in order to "create in Basra, the state of crisis that exists in Najaf".
A British military spokeswoman in Basra said four militia members had been arrested on Wednesday as part of a "routine security check and are being held to assist with inquiries," but had no information about the holy war threat.