NAJAF, Iraq (AP) — Supporters of an anti-American
cleric rioted in four Iraqi cities yesterday, killing eight U.S.
troops and one Salvadoran soldier in the worst unrest since the
spasm of looting and arson immediately after the fall of Saddam
Hussein.

From the AP
Demonstrators rally past an American tank during an anti American protest in Baghdad, Iraq, yesterday. Ten American troops were killed in protests in four Iraqi cities. (AP PHOTO)

The U.S. military yesterday reported two Marines were killed in
a separate “enemy action” in Anbar province, raising
the toll of American service members killed in Iraq to at least
610.

The rioters were supporters of anti-American cleric Muqtada
al-Sadr. They were angry over Saturday’s arrest on murder
charges of one of al-Sadr’s aides, Mustafa al-Yacoubi, and
the closure of a pro-al-Sadr newspaper.

Near the holy city of Najaf, a gunbattle at a Spanish garrison
killed at least 22 people, including two coalition soldiers —
an American and a Salvadoran.

Fighting in the Baghdad neighborhood of Sadr City killed seven
U.S. soldiers and wounded at least 24, the U.S. military said in a
written statement.

A resident said two Humvees were seen burning in the
neighborhood, and some American soldiers had taken refuge in a
building. The report could not be independently confirmed, and it
was unclear whether the soldiers involved were those who died.

A column of American tanks was seen moving through the center of
Baghdad yesterday evening, possibly headed toward the fighting.

The military said the fighting erupted after members of a
militia loyal to al-Sadr took control of police stations and
government buildings in the neighborhood.

Protesters clashed with Italian and British forces in other
cities in a broad, violent challenge to the U.S.-led coalition,
raising questions about its ability to stabilize Iraq ahead of a
scheduled June 30 handover of power to Iraqis.

With less than three months left before then, the U.S.
occupation administrator appointed an Iraqi defense minister and
chief of national intelligence. “These organizations will
give Iraqis the means to defend their country against terrorists
and insurgents,” L. Paul Bremer said at a press
conference.

The chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee said
yesterday that the June 30 deadline may need to be extended. The
security situation in some cities is in shambles and Iraqi police
forces are not prepared to take over, said Sen. Richard Lugar
(R-Ind.).

About three miles outside the holy city of Najaf, supporters of
al-Sadr opened fire on the Spanish garrison during a street protest
that drew about 5,000 people. The protesters were angry over the
arrest of the cleric’s aide, said the Spanish Defense
Ministry in Madrid.

The attackers opened fire at about noon, said Cmdr. Carlos
Herradon, a spokesman for the Spanish headquarters in nearby
Diwaniyah.

The Spanish and Salvadoran soldiers inside the garrison fired
back, and assailants later regrouped in three clusters outside the
base as the shooting continued for several hours.

Two soldiers — a Salvadoran and an American — died
and nine other soldiers were wounded, the Spanish defense ministry
said. No other details were available.

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