Dozens killed in Iraq clashes

This comes as US planes pounded the central Iraqi holy city of Najaf with rockets, in the worst fighting there since June.

Nearly 30 people were killed and more than 130 wounded as the unrest fanned out across Shi’ite central and southern Iraq, with clashes with British troops in Basra and Italian soldiers in Nasiriyah.

In Baghdad, medical staff at the Sadr General Hospital said 18 bodies had been brought in and 73 wounded, including two women and four children. Three other hospitals also reported receiving dead bodies and wounded people.

Columns of thick black smoke could be seen rising up from the city, as residents stayed at home with their doors bolted and fighters loyal to radical cleric Moqtada al-Sadr prowled the streets.

This comes as Sadr called for a truce to be renewed in the holy city.

Mr Sadr announced that “we are committed to the truce and that [US] forces must honour the truce,” said his spokesman Ahmed al-Shaibany in Najaf.

Spokesmen for the cleric in Baghdad also said Mr Sadr wanted to continue the ceasefire.

In Najaf, US planes fired rockets over the city and its cemetery, a Sadr stronghold which suffered some of the worst fighting during his Mehdi Army’s first standoff with foreign troops in the spring.

Power and telephone communication lines were cut.

Police said four civilians were killed and 10 others wounded in overnight fighting in Nasiriyah.

One ambulance was reportedly set alight and burnt out civilian cars littered the deserted streets.

Italian troops are based on one side of the city, with militiamen loyal to Sadr deployed on the other side of the Euphrates River.

At 4.00am, four masked men also attacked a police station in the eastern part of the city, but it was unclear whether they belonged to Sadr’s Mehdi Army militia. No casualties were reported in the incident.

This comes after five people were killed and a US helicopter was shot down amid heavy fighting in Najaf on Thursday.

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