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Military Bases Attacked in Southern Iraq


Suspected Shi'ite militiamen fired mortars at two military bases and shot at a Polish helicopter south of Baghdad, prompting clashes in fighting that left as many as five Iraqi civilians, including two children, dead and about 20 wounded. VOA's Deborah Block reports from Irbil in northern Iraq.

The fighting in the Shi'ite city of Diwaniyah began early in the day when militants fired mortar rounds at the main U.S. and Polish base and at a patrol base manned mainly by Iraqis and Polish troops.

Reports quote officials saying U.S.-led forces fired back with six or seven artillery rounds and both sides traded small arms fire. They say a curfew was imposed on four districts in the city known to be dominated by the Mahdi Army.

This witness heard gunfire between U.S. troops and insurgents - and also says Americans shelled some residential areas, setting a nearby orchard on fire.

In Kurdish-dominated northern Iraq, people were paying close attention to developments across the border in Turkey. The Turkish Cabinet said it would ask parliament for permission to launch an attack inside Iraq on Kurdish rebels blamed for attacks in Turkey. Washington fears such a move could sow chaos in one of the most peaceful areas of the war-torn country.

Kurdish officials in northern Iraq say diplomacy would be better than violence in solving the problem. This resident of the northern Iraq city of Irbil agrees.

He says Iraqi Kurds resent a possible Turkish action, and he calls for Washington to put an end to this crisis.

The United States has urged restraint by Turkey, a key NATO ally.

Turkey has repeatedly asked the United States to pressure its Kurdish allies in Iraq to crackdown on the Kurdistan Workers Party, known as the PKK, which launches attacks inside Turkey from havens in Kurdish-controlled northern Iraq. Turkey and the United States call the group a terrorist organization.

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