Four Soldiers Killed in Baghdad Explosion
Najaf Governor Says Troops, Militiamen to Withdraw From Southern Cities
Compiled From Wire Reports
Friday, June 4, 2004; 9:32 AM
BAGHDAD -- Four U.S. soldiers were killed when their vehicle came under attack in eastern Baghdad Friday, bringing the number of Americans killed in action since the invasion to 600, the U.S. military said.
"Four U.S. soldiers were killed and five wounded by an explosion near their vehicle in eastern Baghdad," said a U.S. military spokesman. "The cause of the explosion is still under investigation."
Flames and smoke engulfed the wreckage of a Humvee vehicle as other U.S. troops cordoned off the scene and evacuated the wounded, said Reuters reporters at the scene.
Local witnesses said militants had fired a rocket-propelled grenade at the vehicle as it drove along a highway surrounded by open ground in eastern Baghdad.
Also in Iraq, American and Shiite militia forces will withdraw from the holy cities of Najaf and Kufa on Friday and turn over security there to the Iraqi police, the governor of Najaf province said.
The announcement by Gov. Adnan Zurufi came one day after aides to radical cleric Muqtada Sadr said they would begin removing their fighters from the cities, although there was no sign of any such movement by late afternoon.
Col. Brad May, commander of the U.S. 2nd Armored Cavalry Regiment, said the military agreed to move its forces "to the periphery of these sensitive areas" of Najaf and Kufa "while the police can move in."
May defined "sensitive areas" as the Imam Ali Shrine in Najaf and the Kufa mosque. He said the Americans were assured by al-Zurufi that Sadr's militia had "been reduced to the point where the legitimate Iraqi security forces can move in to those very sensitive areas. It's an Iraqi solution to the problem."
The move is aimed at ending a two-month armed standoff between the Americans and Sadr's Mahdi Army in the two cities, which contain some of the most sacred shrines in Shia Islam.
"All fighting forces, the coalition forces and the Mahdi Army militia, should leave the two holy cities and not allow any of their elements to enter again," Zurufi said.
The governor said the withdrawal order takes effect at 6 p.m. local time, after which the Iraqi police will assume full responsibility for security in the two cities.
U.S. forces maintain a base between the Najaf and Kufa, and the order would not require them to abandon the garrison.
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