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Iraqis die in Basra clashes
Updated: 2004-05-09 08:57

Rewards offered for killing soldiers

Supporters of radical Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr clashed with coalition troops in the southern city of Basra Saturday morning, according to a British military spokesman.

Gunmen take positions in Basra. [AP]
Two Iraqis were killed and at least five Iraqis were injured, Capt. Hisham Halwai told CNN. Two British soldiers were injured.

A large group of demonstrators gathered around the Southern Oil Company building in Basra, and some armed members of the crowd began shooting at British soldiers, Halwai said.

A Basra police official said there were other skirmishes on the outskirts of Basra. British forces are in charge of the Basra region.

Saturday's attacks came a day after an al-Sadr aide offered worshippers money for capturing or killing coalition soldiers.

Sheik Sultan Al-Bahadli, the director of Sadr's office in Basra, offered the rewards in response to the mistreatment and humiliation of Iraqi prisoners at Abu Ghraib prison in Baghdad by U.S. guards.

Al-Sadr also rallied his supporters with condemnation of the abuse scandal during his weekly sermon Friday at Kufa mosque, near the site of pitched battles between Mehdi Army militia and U.S. soldiers.

Al-Sadr told his chanting followers that President Bush "is standing shamelessly in front of the world talking about all this prisoner abuse. What peace can be expected from him?"

The cleric also said, "What the Americans have done is worse than what Saddam did because the Americans claimed that they were coming here to bring democracy and freedom and Saddam never pretended that."

In Basra, black-clad Mehdi Army militia were out in force on the streets Saturday, opening fire on passing British patrols and sparking skirmishes in several neighborhoods, according to The Associated Press.

Gunmen assaulted the governor's building, trading fire with guards. British troops arrived to reinforce the guards and took control of the building, witnesses said.

A rocket-propelled grenade was fired at the U.S.-led coalition headquarters, witnesses said. At least one person was wounded in the day's fighting, but the full extent of casualties was not immediately known.

British troops in some 50 vehicles surrounded al-Sadr's headquarters in Basra, with gunmen inside, though there was no immediate outbreak of fighting. Al-Sadr was not there.

Al-Bahadli led a group of dozens of gunmen who took control of a main intersection on the southern side of Basra, witnesses said.

On Friday, al-Bahadli delivered his sermon at Basra's al-Hawi mosque, telling worshippers that $350 would be given to anyone who captured a British soldier and offered $150 for killing one. He also said, "Any Iraqi who takes a female soldier can keep her as a slave or gift to himself."

The Kufa mosque is a few miles from al-Sadr's office in nearby Najaf.

Polish soldier killed

A Polish soldier was killed Saturday when his convoy was struck by a civilian truck driving from the opposite direction, military sources said in a statement.

After the convoy outside Karbala was hit, the vehicle the soldier was riding in fell off an embankment and into a ditch, according to the Central Southern Military Division, administered by the Polish coalition contingent.

Two soldiers were injured, and taken to a military hospital.

Details of the accident were under investigation.

In another incident, a roadside bomb detonated in the Al Imam area, wounding a coalition soldier in a foot patrol, the Polish-led command said.

The soldier received head, hand and leg injuries and was to be transported to a Baghdad military hospital.

Halliburton confirms worker's death

Halliburton and its subsidiary KBR confirmed that an employee was killed in Iraq on Friday when an improvised explosive device detonated near his vehicle.

A news release said Daniel Parker, 56, of Summerville, South Carolina, was traveling in a military convoy en route to Baghdad International Airport when he was killed.

Two journalists with Poland's state television agency were killed in an ambush near Mahmoudiyah as they were headed south toward Najaf.

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