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Marines Respond in Najaf; Soldier Killed in Convoy Attack

American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Aug. 5, 2004 – Iraqi security forces and U.S. Marines battled suspected members of radical cleric Muqtada al-Sadr's militia during what was described as a "large-scale" and "repeated" attack on the main police station in Najaf, military officials reported today.

Media reports from today's fighting said that a Multinational Force Iraq helicopter had been shot down, though a military statement said only that the helicopter was forced to make an emergency landing. The crew and the helicopter, the statement said, had been recovered.

At least seven of the militia fighters were killed, and as many as 22 were wounded and taken into custody, according to Falah al-Nakib, Iraq's interior minister.

Today's fighting is the fiercest since a cease-fire agreement was reached in June between the multinational force and Sadr.

Military officials called the attack an "overt violation" of the cease-fire agreement, which was brokered by the governor of Najaf, local civic leaders and the Bayt al-Shiia -- the informal council of senior Shiia clerics.

A Multinational Force Iraq news release said coalition forces responded at the Najaf governor's request and rapidly provided reinforcement to Iraqi police and National Guard units.

"All of these terrorists and killers are working for the same organization, regardless of which banners they carry or which hats they wear," said Nakib. "They attacked Iraqi police, and we must respond. We have the thugs isolated. Our police forces, supported by the Multinational Force, are doing their job."

Anti-Iraqi terrorists have an extreme disregard for Iraq's laws and the lives of innocent Iraqi citizens, officials said.

Multinational forces continue to work closely with the Iraqi police, National Guard, and security forces to prevent and repel these attacks, the interior minister said. "Our brothers, the Iraqi police and supporting forces have gained glorious victories in their efforts to make Iraq a strong, sovereign nation."

In a separate attack, a soldier assigned to the 13th Corps Support Command was killed today when a U.S. convoy came under small-arms fire near Najaf, the military reported. Three other soldiers were wounded in the attack and were taken to a military medical facility. Two others were treated at the site.

Elsewhere in Iraq, four Task Force Danger soldiers were reported to be in stable condition at a military medical facility after being wounded by an improvised explosive device that damaged their vehicle near Dujayl around 6 p.m. Aug. 4. One soldier was treated and returned to duty.

Security workers with Northern Oil Company located another IED along an oil pipeline near Kirkuk around 10:30 p.m. They reported it to Task Force Danger soldiers, who were investigating the device when it exploded, according to a military statement. No one was injured.

Military officials also reported today that 1st Infantry Division soldiers arrested a man after he was found with four blocks of TNT, wire and gasoline. The man had attempted to avoid a checkpoint on a bicycle near Baqubah. He was taken to a military detention facility for questioning.

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