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Iraqis Clash In Shi'ite Holy City

24 August 2005 (RFE/RL) -- Followers and opponents of radical Shi'ite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr today clashed in Al-Najaf, a Shi'ite holy city in southern Iraq, leaving at least four people dead.

There were few immediate details, but the fighting apparently started as al-Sadr supporters tried to re-open their local office. The office was closed in 2004 following a rebellion led by followers of the controversial cleric and U.S. forces.

After the Al-Najaf attack, Health Minister Abd al-Muttalib Muhammad Ali, an ally of al-Sadr, said he is suspending his membership in the government following what he called an attack on al-Sadr's office in Al-Najaf.

Interior Minister Bayan Sulagh Jabr confirmed the clashes and said demonstrators had "burned down the office of al-Sadr's group." He said security forces had intervened to end the clashes.

Reuters is reporting that a group of al-Sadr supporters -- known as the Imam al-Madhi Army -- later attacked the offices of a rival Shi'ite group in Baghdad, but police had few details about the incidents.

(Reuters/AFP/AP)

Copyright (c) 2005. RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036. www.rferl.org



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