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Fighting in Iraq's Kut kills at least 72
Updated: 2004-08-12 17:02

Attacks by insurgents and militants on government buildings and police stations in the southern city of Kut have killed at least 70 people, all of them Iraqi, officials said Thursday.

Iraqi forces fought off the militants who targeted the city hall, police stations and Iraqi National Guard barracks, the US military said, causing casualties on both sides.

``Seventy-two people were killed and 148 injured in clashes in the last 24 hours,'' said Falah al-Bairaman, director-general of health for Wasit, the province of which Kut is the capital city.

Iraq's health ministry said 75 were killed in Wednesday's fighting in Kut, 160 kilometers (100 miles) southeast of Baghdad.

Al-Bairaman said the death toll included civilians, police and members of the militia loyal to Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, whose uprising against US and Iraqi troops has spread from the holy city of Najaf in the south, to other parts of Iraq.

He said 51 people were killed and 45 injured when US helicopters shelled the Sharkiya quarter in the city center, but the US military said it wasn't involved in the clashes.

``The Multinational Division-Center South's 2nd Brigade Combat Team at Camp Delta, which is located on the opposite bank of the Tigris River from Kut, has increased its combat readiness level and is prepared to support the Iraqi Security Forces,'' the military said in a statement.

The military said the governor of Kut was contacting the militants trying to seek a peaceful resolution to the fighting.

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