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Iraqi Gov't Gives Amnesty for Minor Crimes
Updated: 2004-08-08 10:14

Iraqi interim Prime Minister Ayad Allawi signed an amnesty Saturday intended to persuade militants fighting a 15-month-old insurgency to put down their weapons and join government efforts to rebuild the country.

Fighters loyal to radical Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr raise their weapons as they bear pictures of al-Sadr during clashes with U.S. forces and Iraqi National guards in the holy Muslim city of Najaf, 100 miles south of Baghdad, Iraq Aug. 7, 2004. Sporadic explosions and gunfire echoed through the holy Shiite city of Najaf on Saturday after two days of intense clashes between U.S. forces and Shiite Muslim insurgents that marked some of the bloodiest fighting in Iraq in months.

But the law pardons only minor criminals, not killers or terrorists, and appeared unlikely to dampen the violence, as some insurgent leaders called it "insignificant."
Meanwhile, sporadic explosions and gunfire echoed through Najaf, south of the capital, as Shiite leaders appealed for a renewed cease-fire to end two days of bloody battles between insurgents and Iraqi and U.S. forces in several Shiite communities.

On Saturday night, at least 12 explosions rocked central Baghdad, apparently targeting the fortified Green Zone enclave housing the U.S. Embassy and Iraqi interim government buildings. The military said some of the explosions appeared to be mortars.

The Najaf fighting has threatened to revive a Shiite insurrection that broke out in April and was calmed only in a series of truces in June.

Five U.S. servicemembers have been killed in Najaf, including two Marines who died Friday, the military announced. The military says hundreds of militants have been killed, though the militiamen put the number far lower.

Also Friday, an insurgent fired a rocket-propelled grenade at a U.S. vehicle in Baghdad, killing one soldier. At least 925 U.S. service members have died since the beginning of military operations in Iraq in March 2003.

The Iraqi government also ordered the offices of the pan-Arab television station Al-Jazeera closed for 30 days, accusing it of inciting violence.

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