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US Troops Clash With Sadr Militias in Kufa, Iranians Protest - 2004-05-28

U.S. troops and militiamen loyal to radical Shi'ite Cleric Moqtada al-Sadr clashed Friday in the southern city of Kufa, leaving the status of a day old truce unclear.

Reports say fighting erupted near a mosque in Kufa where the radical cleric has been regularly addressing his followers at Friday prayers. He was not seen there today.

Local hospital officials said three people were killed and at least eight wounded in the fighting.

In Baghdad, U.S. General Mark Kimmitt said the attacks by Sadr militiamen would, in his words, "seem to be a violation" of the truce the cleric offered Thursday. General Kimmitt said it could take a few more days to see whether the cease-fire will hold.

U.S.- led coalition forces said Thursday they were halting all offensive operations in Kufa and neighboring Najaf, after Shi'ite leaders said Moqtada al-Sadr had agreed to withdraw his militia from the area.

But the coalition also said its demands that Moqtada al-Sadr dissolve his militia and face Iraqi charges for murder have not changed.

Also Friday, near Baghdad, 617 Iraqi detainees were released from Abu Ghraib prison as part of a program to reduce the number of inmates by half. The prison is at the center of the current scandal over American soldiers' abuse of detainees.

In Fallujah, west of Baghdad, a U.S. television crew held captive by anti-coalition forces since Tuesday has been released. The four men, one Iraqi and three Westerners, were freed unharmed today, after negotiations by the Fallujah Brigade - an Iraqi security force supported by the U.S.- led coalition.

Meanwhile, Iranian demonstrators have clashed with police outside the British embassy in Tehran in the latest protest against the situation in Iraq.

As many as 300 protesters tried to charge the embassy Friday, while riot police used batons and shields to push them back. The crowd threw firecrackers and stones at the building. At least one demonstrator was hurt.

In recent days, several protests have been organized at Britain's embassy in Iran to express anger about damage to Shi'ite Muslim holy shrines in Iraq.

Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, has condemned coalition forces for military actions at holy Shi'ite sites.