— BAGHDAD (Reuters) - Iraqi troops clashed with U.S.-led forces
in the desert near the holy city of Najaf, 100 miles south of the
capital Baghdad, Iraqi television reported on Sunday.
The report said the leader of President Saddam Hussein's Baath
party in Najaf was killed in the clashes, the closest ground
fighting to the capital since U.S. and British forces launched a war
against the Iraqi regime on Thursday.
Iraqi TV said the U.S.-led forces fled after the clash.
A spokesman for U.S. forces in Kuwait had no comment on the
The U.S. military says it has secured a bridge across the
Euphrates river at the city of Nassiriya, 375 km (235 miles)
southeast of Baghdad. Najaf also lies on the western banks of the
Euphrates, but much closer to the capital.
Najaf has a population of around 420,000, and is home to the
shrine of Imam Ali, a figure revered by Shi'ite Muslims.
Shi'ites make up the majority of the population of southern Iraq,
but Saddam's government is dominated by Sunnis. A Shi'ite rebellion
in the south was crushed by Saddam's forces after the 1991 Gulf War.
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