IRAQ: Continuing violence

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Reports about the fighting between Shiite Muslim militiamen and Iraqi and U.S. forces have focused on Baghdad and Basra, but violence is not confined to those areas. Here is a snapshot of dispatches received from Los Angeles Times correspondents Saturday that didn’t make it into the latest story, but which illustrate the spiraling unrest in the country:

  • In Kut, 100 miles southeast of Baghdad, police reported fighting between members of Shiite cleric Muqtada Sadr’s Mahdi Army militia and American and Iraqi forces. Police have reported more than 40 people killed in the city since violence flared Tuesday;
  • Police commandos said they had raided the villages of Hamza and Hashimiya, about 75 miles south of Baghdad, and detained 62 Mahdi Army members. The commandos then raided a Sadr office in the city of Hillah, 60 miles south of Baghdad, and detained two more people;
  • Fighting between the Mahdi Army and Iraqi army south of Hillah left six Iraqi soldiers dead, according to police commandos;
  • The provincial government of Babil, of which Hillah is the capital, lifted a curfew for three hours Saturday afternoon so residents could stock up on food and supplies. The curfew will be eased further Sunday, allowing residents to go out from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m.;
  • Police said seven mortar shells landed near the U.S. Embassy annex in Hillah on Saturday. There were no immediate reports of casualties.
  • Reuters news agency quoted government officials as saying they had killed 120 fighters in Basra in the last five days. And in Baghdad, where a 24-hour curfew has been extended indefinitely,
  • The Associated Press reports that U.S. government employees living inside the Green Zone have been ordered to use only armored vehicles to drive in the enclave, and to sleep in reinforced structures rather than the flimsy trailers in which many of them live. This follows repeated rocket and mortar shell strikes on the Green Zone, which have killed at least two Americans in the past week.

— Times correspondents in Iraq