US shelling kills 4 Iraqis in Fallujah
* Iraqi police seal off Najaf and Kufa
FALLUJAH: Four Iraqis were killed and six wounded when a security force based in the Sunni Muslim insurgent bastion of Fallujah came under the US tank fire on Friday, an Iraqi soldier and medics said.
But the US marine spokesman Lieutenant Colonel TV Johnson denied any incident occurred and insisted the US military had no record of any such episode. The shelling killed two soldiers and two civilians, and wounded six civilians, four of them seriously, said Doctor Nabil Nuri of Fallujah General Hospital. A tank approached an Iraqi military camp bordering the residential district of Shuhada and opened fire, said First Lieutenant Ahmed Khudair.
“We were inside the camp and we were able to see the Americans and they could see us. All of a sudden a US tank started to fire on us,” said Khudair.
Another medic at the hospital, Doctor Raed Mohammed also said the US forces had shelled the city.
The Iraqi police also sealed off the shrine city of Najaf and neighboring Kufa amid fears of fresh violence on Friday, a week after radical Shia cleric Moqtada Sadr ended his bloody revolt against US troops. Police vehicles blocked off the main road and officers fired shots in the air as people approached checkpoints ahead of Friday afternoon prayers.
In another sign of the lingering tension in Najaf, around 250 locals earlier demonstrated to demand Sadr and his Mehdi Army leave the holy city. “Moqtada, take your hands off Najaf,” chanted the protestors.
Iraqi police and national guardsmen set up checkpoints, barring all cars from entering the city and limiting the number of worshippers allowed in. Nevertheless, some 700 people gathered around the shrine.
Meanwhile, a statement from kidnappers of two French journalist hostages said they would announce soon a decision on their fate and denied they delegated negotiations to any other group, an Islamist Web site reported on Friday. “The Islamic Army’s legal committee will soon announce its decision. We have not delegated any group or person to negotiate or talk on our behalf,” the statement said.
Also on Friday, firefighters fought a massive oil pipeline fire that raged in the town of Riyadh about 60 kilometres southwest of Kirkuk. Saboteurs detonated explosives on Thursday on the line linking fields near Kirkuk with the oil refinery of Beiji, said Maj Gen Anwar Mohammed Amin of the Iraqi National Guard.
Meanwhile, the US military said two US soldiers were wounded when their convoy came under attack while on patrol near the city of Tikrit. A statement said the two soldiers were hit by shrapnel during the attack late on Thursday but did not provide details on their condition. Poland will hand over another part of the zone it administers in Iraq under a planned reduction of its forces next year, Defence Minister Jerzy Szmajdzinski said in an interview published on Friday.
The key US ally, which heads a multinational force of 6,500 administering a swathe of south central Iraq to which it sent more than 2,500 of its own troops, will hand over control of the province of Karbala, he said. agencies