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CNN BREAKING NEWS

Gun Battle Leaves Three U.S. Military Police Dead

Aired October 17, 2003 - 05:01   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

CAROL COSTELLO, CNN ANCHOR: More now on that breaking news out of Iraq. The gun battle that's left three U.S. military police dead and five Americans wounded took place near a mosque in the holy city of Karbala.
Let's go live to Baghdad now and Harris Whitbeck -- what happened?

HARRIS WHITBECK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Carol, the latest reports we have from Karbala are, indicate that that gun battle might still be ongoing. Apparently late Thursday night or very early this morning, a joint patrol carried out by U.S. military police and members of the Iraqi police force came across a group of armed men, 20 to 30 armed men. A very, very fierce gun battle ensued. CNN has learned that three U.S. military police and two Iraqi policemen were killed, and seven people wounded, among them five U.S. military policemen and the rest are Iraqi police.

Now, there has been tension in Karbala for quite some time. In the last several days, this previously unknown armed faction emerged and apparently the U.S. military or this patrol was trying to disarm this faction when that gun battle ensued.

Karbala is, as you know, a large Shiite area and the Shiites are the majority in Iraq, but during the Saddam Hussein years they were severely repressed. So now that things have changed in Iraq, a lot of different factions apparently have emerged within the Shiites and some people say there might be a power play going on there between different factions.

But the point is not many of them like the American occupation and, again, that's the result of that, is this very, very fierce gun battle, which we understand is still ongoing -- Carol.

COSTELLO: Yes, this gun battle happened near a mosque, and isn't that the same mosque where the Shiite cleric declared his own government last week?

WHITBECK: Well, Muqtada al-Sadr did declare his own government, but he said that he would only pursue that declaration if a lot of people went out into the streets to follow him and to voice their support for him. That did not happen, so later on he withdrew from this declaration, saying that he would not, in fact, try to form a new government here -- Carol.

COSTELLO: All right, Harris Whitbeck reporting live from Baghdad this morning. TO ORDER A VIDEO OF THIS TRANSCRIPT, PLEASE CALL 800-CNN-NEWS OR USE OUR SECURE ONLINE ORDER FORM LOCATED AT www.fdch.com




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