Mil News US tanks enter Iraqi holy city of Karbala



US tanks enter Iraqi holy city of Karbala

KARBALA, Iraq (AFP) - US tanks made a brief incursion into the Iraqi holy city of Karbala, approaching two of the most sacred shrines in Shiite Islam occupied by rebel militiamen, an AFP correspondent said.

The sudden appearance by the some 15 tanks in the area near the Imam Abbas and Imam Hussein shrines of occupied by militiamen loyal to radical cleric Moqtada Sadr provoked hysteria among hundreds of people preparing for an anti-US demonstration.

"Long live Sadr, the Americans are an army of infidels," the unarmed crowd shouted before trying to swarm around the tanks which quickly left the area.

Gunfire was heard earlier in the area where some 500 people had gathered after being called out for a peaceful demonstration against the occupation by Ayatollah Mohammad Taqi Modarassi.

They were asked to assemble in front of the office of the ayatollah, who heads the Organisation of Islamic Action, to demand an end to the spilling of blood.

Thirteen Iraqis were wounded during gun battles overnight in Karbala during clashes between Sadr's militiamen and US forces, hospital officials here said.

The coalition forces had urged residents to leave the city Saturday after three civilians were killed and seven wounded in fighting.

Karbala, 110 kilometres (70 miles) south of Baghdad, was one of the largest cities seized early last month by Sadr's militia in a major insurgency which threatened to spark a wider uprising against coalition forces by the Shiite majority.


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