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Shi'ite Islam's Holy Site Damaged in Najaf Fighting
VOA News
25 May 2004, 15:11 UTC

One of Shi'ite Islam's most sacred sites has suffered minor damage in renewed fighting between U.S. forces and militiamen loyal to radical Shi'ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr in the Iraqi city of Najaf.

Apparent mortar fire hit the Imam Ali shrine, damaging gates which lead to the tomb of Imam Ali, a revered seventh century Shi'ite martyred leader and the Prophet Mohammed's son-in-law.

It was unclear which side was responsible for the damage, but U.S. military spokesman Brigadier General Mark Kimmitt said coalition forces had no involvement in damage to the shrine. He said he had heard differing accounts, including that the damage may have been caused by fighting between rival Shi'ite factions or by al-Sadr militia firing at the shrine to provoke outrage so they could blame it on the coalition.

Local hospital officials say at least seven people were killed in the fighting in Najaf. Similar clashes were reported in neighboring Kufa.

Meanwhile in Baghdad, the U.S. military says at least five people were injured when a car bomb exploded early Tuesday near Australia's diplomatic mission in a central part of the city.

The explosion also occurred near a hotel, which is used by foreigners and it was not clear which building was the target of the blast.

Separately, a U.S. military statement said one American soldier was killed and four wounded in a rocket attack on a base northwest of Baghdad late Monday.

Some information for this report provided by AP and AFP.

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