RealNews

U.S. battles cleric's forces for 5 hours

A five-hour firefight erupted in palm groves along the Euphrates River on Friday between U.S. troops and militiamen loyal to radical Shiite cleric Moqtada Sadr, the first major combat engagement between the two sides since U.S. forces converged in the area on a mission to capture or kill Sadr. Three U.S. soldiers were wounded, including one who was shot in the head and not expected to survive. About 20 members of Sadr’s al-Mahdi Army were believed killed in the battle along a 2-mile stretch of palm trees on the opposite side of the river from Kufa, U.S. authorities said. The battle outside the southern Iraq city raised questions about whether a peaceful resolution can be negotiated in the standoff between Sadr, a vociferous critic of the U.S.-led occupation, and U.S. authorities, who accuse the cleric of inciting violence and plotting the slaying of a rival Shiite religious leader last year. Full Story

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