- The Washington Times - Tuesday, October 21, 2003

BAGHDAD — Iraqi police backed by U.S. coalition troops raided a mosque before dawn yesterday in the holy city of Karbala, arresting dozens in a crackdown on Shi’ite Muslim militants.

Outside the Sunni Muslim city of Fallujah, meanwhile, insurgents struck U.S. forces for a third straight day.

One soldier with the Army’s 377th Theater Support Command was killed and another injured in a maintenance accident in a camp north of Baghdad, the U.S. military said. The accident occurred at Camp Anaconda in the town of Balad, the U.S. Central Command said in a statement.

The latest death brings to 340 the number of American soldiers to die in Iraq since the war began March 20. Of that figure, 218 of the deaths have been by hostile fire.

American allies in Iraq came under assault late Monday. Traveling from Baghdad to Camp Babylon, a garrison near Karbala, 55 miles southwest of the capital, a Polish military convoy was attacked with grenades, but no one was injured, Polish officials said.

The latest troubles in Karbala began a week ago over ownership of a bus, but reflect a power struggle between armed followers of militant Shi’ite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, who demands an immediate U.S. withdrawal from Iraq, and gunmen loyal to religious leaders who take a more moderate stand toward the Americans.

With the endorsement of Karbala’s senior clerics, Iraq’s interim Governing Council decided to take action against the al-Sadr forces, said interim Interior Minister Nori al-Badran.

The raid went smoothly, he said.

“All the gunmen surrendered with their weapons. Twenty-one people were arrested. Another 20 guarding outside the mosque were arrested, too,” he said.

Occupation spokesman Charles Heatly of the Coalition Provisional Authority in Baghdad, said the police raiders seized a number of weapons.

“These are criminal elements who are accused of taking over the mosque,” he said.

The U.S. command said American forces were at the scene to provide support if necessary.

The occupation’s problems in southern Iraq stem from rivalries over political power and mosques among Iraq’s majority Shi’ites, who generally opposed and were suppressed by the deposed regime of President Saddam Hussein.

West and north of Baghdad, the Americans are grappling with a low-intensity guerrilla war apparently waged by die-hard supporters of Saddam or by other Sunni Muslims resisting the U.S. occupation.

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