US says Iraqis open fire from Najaf mosque
Iraqi fighters fired on US forces from inside the gold-domed Ali Mosque in Najaf, but the Americans did not return fire, US says.world Updated: Apr 02, 2003 16:04 IST
Iraqi fighters fired on US forces from inside the gold-domed Ali Mosque in Najaf, an important Shi'ite Muslim shrine, but the Americans did not return fire, an official at US war headquarters said.
"The Iraqi regime's use of the Ali Mosque for military purposes is just the latest example of the regime's continued strategy of placing sacred sites in Iraq in jeopardy," a US official at war headquarters in Qatar said.
He described the Ali Mosque as "one of the most important religious and historic shrines to Shi'a around the world".
"Coalition forces continue their efforts to protect sacred religious and historic sites and are refusing to return fire at the Iraqi regime forces in the mosque," the official said.
The domed shrine in Najaf, about 160 km miles south of Baghdad, honours Imam Ali Bin Abi Talib, cousin and son-in-law of the prophet Mohammad.
The reported fire fight could not immediately be confirmed by a Reuters correspondent with US forces in Najaf.
US forces mounted a fierce attack in Najaf on Wednesday, targeting Iraqi fighters local to President Saddam Hussein and bombing the city headquarters of the ruling Baath Party.
The fighting in Najaf came as US forces surged forward on a number of fronts, encircling Kerbala, another Shi'ite holy city, and seizing a key bridge over the Tigris river near Kut, putting them in control of a major highway leading to Baghdad.