A radical Shi'ite cleric has threatened to unleash suicide bombers against coalition
forces if they conduct military offensives in Iraqi cities holy to Shi'ite Muslims.
Moqtada al-Sadr issued the warning at Friday prayers in Kufa, just outside
the holy city of Najaf.
The cleric has been holed up in Najaf, trying to avoid being captured or killed
by coalition forces who have demanded he disband his illegal militia. A significant
number of coalition forces are deployed outside the city.
Earlier, one coalition soldier was killed and at least five civilians were
wounded in clashes after a coalition convoy was attacked by Shi'ite militiamen
in the holy city of Karbala, north of Najaf.
Meanwhile, in the mainly Sunni city of Fallujah, U.S. General Mark Kimmitt
said the coalition's patience is running out. He said that insurgents would
have only "days" to comply with conditions for a permanent cease-fire or face
a renewed coalition offensive.
Those conditions include disarming, which, so far, the fighters have failed
And Iraqi officials say the death toll from Wednesday's coordinated suicide
bombings in British-controlled Basra and Zubayr has risen to 74. Earlier figures
had put the toll at 68.
Also Friday, Iraq's interim health minister released official casualty figures
from this month's battle for control of Fallujah. He said 271 people were killed
and nearly 800 others wounded. Earlier estimates put the death toll between
600 and 700 killed.
U.S. Marines laid siege to the city April 5, after four American civilian
contractors were brutally killed.