Monday, June 07, 2004

Blasts were reported at the compound surrounding the Kufa Mosque in Iraq, one of Islam's holiest sites, after ammunition used by Shiite fighters apparently caught fire, the Associated Press said, citing witnesses.

Fighters loyal to cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, whose al-Madhi militia had been clashing with U.S. troops, were holed up there, AP reported. The site had been peaceful since Thursday after al- Sadr and U.S. forces agreed to pull back from mosques in Kufa and in Najaf.

One militiaman, Ababas Khoder, said he was inside the mosque when the blast happened and reported seeing ``shrapnel and fire,'' the news agency said.

``There were many al-Mahdi people inside the mosque as well as visitors; there were many victims,'' AP reported Khoder as saying.

A coalition military spokeswoman contacted in Baghdad said she had no information about the explosion.

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