Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Reports: U.S. clashes with Mahdi army in Diwaniyah, fires into residential neighborhoods; 1 soldier killed, number of civilian casualties unknown

Above: Soldiers of the Eighth Iraqi Army Division soldiers prepare for an assault against suspected militia members during Operation Black Eagle in Diwaniyah in April

Clashes break out in central Iraq

Clashes erupted in the central Iraqi city of Diwaniyah between Shiite militiamen and local security forces following an attack on an Iraqi army patrol, officials said Tuesday.

The fighting began when gunmen ambushed the patrol in the northern part of the predominantly Shiite city, setting a Humvee alight as explosions and gunfire radiated across neighbouring areas.

"The clashes are still ongoing," said a police official who asked not to be named. "Two police cars have been burned and ambulances cannot reach the area to resuce those wounded in the fighting."

Hamid Jaati, the local director of public health, said he had appealed to the city authorities to allow ambulances into the areas where the fighting was taking place as he feared there were some civilian casualties.

"No health team can reach people in the area of the clashes because it's very severe. We don't know how many have been wounded or killed," Jaati told AFP.

He said he had received reports that several students were wounded while sitting for final exams at a nearby secondary school for girls.

Salman al-Sheikh Bakr, a high ranking education official, said at least four examination centres were hit by exchanges of fire and that several people had been wounded.

Read the rest at France 24

Five killed in Iraqi clash

At least five people were killed when Shi'a militiamen ambushed an Iraqi army patrol on Tuesday in the central city of Diwaniyah on Tuesday, officials said.

Two women were among the dead and another 14 people were wounded, including four teenage girls, according to a security official...

"Two police cars have been burned and ambulances cannot reach the area," a police official said shortly after the fighting began. He later added that five houses and 15 civilian vehicles had been destroyed.

Hamid Jaati, the local director of public health, said he had appealed to the city authorities to allow ambulances into the battle zone as he feared there were civilian casualties.

After a few hours the fighting calmed down and ambulances were being allowed in to evacuate the wounded.

The attacks came as secondary schools across the city were administering graduate placement exams.

Read the rest at the Independent

U.S. soldier killed in Iraq in Mehdi Army clash

A U.S. soldier was killed in clashes with the Mehdi Army in Diwaniya on Tuesday when violence flared in the southern Iraqi city which was the scene of a major U.S. operation in April.

Two patrols were separately ambushed with roadside bombs and rocket propelled grenades, and helicopters were called in to provide support, the U.S. military said in a statement.

A witness said the fighting left four houses in flames and that three residents, including two women, were killed. A local hospital source said eight people were wounded.

The U.S. military said Mehdi militiamen, loyal to Shi'ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, ambushed the patrols from the cover of civilian buildings, including a school.

This forced U.S. troops to return fire into residential neighbourhoods, the military said. It had no information on civilian or militia casualties.

Read the rest at Reuters/Alternet

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