US helicopter downed over Najaf

#1
http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/middle_east/3538058.stm

US helicopter downed over Najaf


US troops and Iraqi forces are fighting militia in Najaf
A US helicopter has been shot down in the Iraqi holy city of Najaf, wounding two crewmen, the US military says.
The incident occurred as US troops and Iraqi security forces fought fierce battles in Najaf with supporters of the radical Shia cleric Moqtada Sadr.

A US military spokesman said the crew had been evacuated from the area where the UH-1 helicopter was shot down.

In Basra, Sadr supporters reportedly declared a "jihad" on British forces after four comrades were arrested.

"We will wage jihad [holy war] and war against the foreign troops, not against police and Iraqi forces," said Sheikh Saad al-Basri, quoted by the AFP news agency.



Mr Basri accused British forces of arresting four Sadr supporters in order to "create in Basra the state of crisis that exists in Najaf".

Earlier, at least five people were killed and 20 others hurt in a car bomb at a police station south of Baghdad.

The blast occurred in the town of Mahawil near Hilla, about 70 km (40 miles) from the Iraqi capital.

A suicide bomber drove a minibus up to the police station and detonated it, an official said.

Tensions high for days

In Najaf, the town governor had requested back-up from US marines after the main police station was attacked overnight, the US military said.

The marines called the attack a violation of a June ceasefire agreement that was designed to put an end to an uprising by Mr Sadr's militia.

A spokesman for Mr Sadr, said US forces and Iraqi police had attacked first.

The BBC's Caroline Hawley, in Baghdad, says tensions had been brewing in Najaf for days before the latest outbreak of fighting.

Clashes began overnight, but intensified late on Thursday morning, US military officials told our correspondent.

The helicopter had been carrying away a US marine injured in the fighting when it came under small arms fire, our correspondent says.
 

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