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VOICE OF AMERICA
SLUG: 2-314777 Iraq Violence (L)
DATE:
NOTE NUMBER:

DATE=4/5/2004

TYPE=CORRESPONDENT REPORT

TITLE=IRAQ / VIOLENCE (L)

NUMBER=2-314777

BYLINE=KERRY SHERIDAN

DATELINE=CAIRO

INTRO: Reports from Baghdad say U-S forces have launched a helicopter strike against militiamen who follow a Shiite cleric branded as an outlaw by the U-S administrator in Iraq. Fighting between coalition forces and the Shiite militias has killed nearly 80 people since Sunday. Kerry Sheridan reports from V-O-A's Middle East bureau in Cairo.

/// HELICOPTER SOUND - EST AND FADE UNDER ///

TEXT: Witnesses said Apache helicopters opened fire on the private militias of radical Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, a day after deadly fighting broke out between rioting Shiite demonstrators and coalition forces.

The new clashes erupted after supporters of the Shiite cleric seized control of at least one government building. On Sunday, the outspoken critic of the U-S occupation of Iraq called for his followers to stop demonstrating and terrorize the enemy.

The U-S administrator in Iraq, Paul Bremer, branded the cleric an outlaw and said that his call for violence was going too far.

/// BREMER ACT ///

He has called for attacks on Iraqi forces and on the coalition.

/// END ACT ///

A supporter of Moqtada al-Sadr read a response by the 30-year-old cleric at a mosque near Najaf, which said he was proud to be an outlaw because it means, in his words, breaking the law of the American tyranny.

Meanwhile, Shiite demonstrations continued in the southern Iraqi city of Basra.

/// CROWD CHANTING, EST AND FADE UNDER ///

Protesters are calling for the release of a top al-Sadr aide, who was arrested Saturday in connection with the killing of a rival Shiite cleric last year.

Meanwhile, U-S troops surrounded the city of Fallujah, a Sunni Muslim stronghold where four American civilian contractors were killed and their bodies mutilated by jubilant mobs last week.

An official with the U-S Marines said American and Iraqi forces are poised to launch what he called an extended operation, code-named Operation Vigilant Resolve, but declined to disclose further details. (SIGNED)

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