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10 troops die in Iraq; cleric urges unity against U.S.

By Steven R. Hurst
Associated Press Writer

BAGHDAD — The powerful Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr ordered his militiamen Sunday to redouble their battle to oust American forces and argued that Iraq’s army and police should join him in defeating “your archenemy.” The U.S. military announced the weekend deaths of 10 American soldiers, including six killed Sunday.

Security remained so tenuous in the capital on the eve of the fourth anniversary of the U.S. capture of Baghdad that Iraq’s military declared a 24-hour ban on all vehicles in the capital from 5 a.m. Monday. The government quickly reinstated Monday as a holiday, just a day after it had decreed that April 9 no longer would be a day off.

Among the 10 U.S. deaths announced Sunday were three soldiers killed by a roadside bomb while patrolling south of Baghdad; one killed in an attack south of the capital; and two who died of combat wounds sustained north of the capital, in Diyala and Salahuddin provinces.

At least 3,280 members of the U.S. military have died since the beginning of the Iraq war in March 2003, according to an Associated Press count. The figure includes seven military civilians.

South of Baghdad, a truck bomb exploded near the Mahmoudiyah General Hospital, killing at least 18 people and wounding 23. The pickup loaded with artillery shells blew apart several buildings in a warren of auto repair shops.

Al-Sadr commands an enormous following among Iraq’s majority Shiites and has close allies in the Shiite-dominated government. The statement Sunday carried his seal and was distributed in the Shiite holy city of Najaf, where the cleric called for an enormous demonstration to mark the fourth anniversary of Baghdad’s fall.

“You, the Iraqi army and police forces, don’t walk alongside the occupiers, because they are your archenemy,” the al-Sadr statement said.

Copyright 2005 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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