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Sunday, August 29, 2004 - Page updated at 12:00 A.M.
BAGHDAD, Iraq Shiite militants and U.S. forces battled throughout the Baghdad slum of Sadr City, and a mortar barrage slammed into a busy neighborhood in the capital in a new wave of violence yesterday that killed at least five people and wounded dozens of others.
Sadr City has been the scene of repeated clashes in the 16 months since the fall of Saddam Hussein, but the violence intensified in recent weeks as the Najaf fighting spread to Shiite communities across the country.
Interim Iraqi Prime Minister Ayad Allawi blamed the continuing violence on renegade followers of anti-American cleric Muqtada al-Sadr who do not want to honor the peace deal al-Sadr agreed to in Najaf.
"I believe there are some people who are disobeying Muqtada al-Sadr's orders" to stop fighting, he told Al-Iraqiyah television.
U.S. soldiers in Humvees drove through the neighborhood with loudspeakers, telling people to stay inside because coalition forces were "cleaning the area of armed men."
Gunfire crackled in the streets as U.S. tanks rolled by and helicopters patrolled the sky. Militants stood in the streets calmly launching round after round of mortars at U.S. forces. Black smoke rose over the neighborhood.
Saad al-Amili, a Health Ministry official, said three people were killed and 25 wounded in the skirmishes. Militants fired mortars at U.S. troops, but all of them missed and instead hit an electricity substation, cutting power to five or six blocks of Sadr City, U.S. Capt. Brian O'Malley of the 1st Brigade Combat Team, said. U.S. forces suffered no casualties.
Insurgents also fired a round of mortars into a crowded eastern Baghdad neighborhood, killing two boys washing cars in a street, said Interior Ministry spokesman Col. Adnan Abdul-Rahman.
At least four mortar rounds landed within an hour in the same area, sending panicked pedestrians scrambling for safety, witnesses said.
U.S. forces strike insurgents in Fallujah
The latest U.S. strikes in Fallujah, a hotbed of Sunni Muslim insurgents, struck the Askari neighborhood and an industrial area in the eastern section of the city. At least 14 people were injured, including eight children, said Dr. Ali Khamis of Fallujah General Hospital.
Witnesses said the air raids began at 7 p.m. and clashes continued for several hours. Fire blazed in the night sky after the strikes.
Lt. Col. Thomas Johnson, a Marine spokesman, said U.S. troops were responding with tank and artillery after coming under fire. A blaze in the city was sparked by a strike that apparently hit a "significant weapons cache," he said.
Saboteurs blow up another oil pipeline
BAGHDAD, Iraq Insurgents blew up a pipeline inside an oilfield in southern Iraq in the latest in a series of attacks on the country's oil infrastructure, officials said yesterday.
Saboteurs hit a pipeline late Friday that runs within the West Qurna oilfields, 90 miles north of the southern city of Basra, sending up plumes of fire and smoke, said a South Oil Co. official.
The attack will affect exports, though it was not immediately clear by how much, the official said. The fires were extinguished by yesterday afternoon.
Insurgents have repeatedly sabotaged Iraq's crucial oil industry, its main source of income, in an effort to hamper reconstruction efforts here after years of war and devastating sanctions.
Exports from southern Iraq have fallen to about 900,000 barrels a day, about half the normal average, after an attack Wednesday on a cluster of pipelines linked to the Rumeila oilfields.
Democrat advocates reservists' benefits
WASHINGTON U.S. reservists serving in Iraq deserve to have their health-care and education benefits increased, a congressman said in the Democrats' weekly radio address.
Rep. Earl Pomeroy of North Dakota said he had introduced legislation to provide members of the National Guard and Reserve with increased access to the military health-care system and increased GI-bill educational benefits.
Pomeroy's measure would also provide tax incentives to employers who continue to pay their Guard or Reserve employees after they have been deployed, he said.
U.S. officials have said that about 40 percent of the U.S. forces in Iraq belong to Reserve or National Guard units.
Gunmen killed five policemen and injured two others in the center of the city of Baqouba, a hotbed of violence 35 miles northeast of Baghdad, said police Lt. Col. Salman Saadoon.
Police found the bodies of a slain Turkish truck driver and an Iraqi man on a highway near Beiji, 155 miles north of Baghdad, a Turkish diplomat said. It was not known who killed the men.
A civilian was killed and two other people were wounded, including an Iraqi police officer, when rebels fired a mortar round in Beiji on Friday, the U.S. military said yesterday
Two Iraqi police officers in the northern city of Kirkuk were wounded yesterday after they mistakenly opened fire on U.S. troops, who returned fire, an Iraqi National Guard commander said.
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