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Sunni Muslim Iraqi insurgents fought fierce battles yesterday with Al Qaida-led militants for control of a neighborhood in Baghdad that has effectively been outside government control for months.
Residents said the fighting in the southwestern district of Amiriya was between the Islamic Army in Iraq, one of the largest insurgent groups fighting US and Iraqi forces, and the Al Qaida-led Islamic State in Iraq.
It was not clear how many people had been killed in several days of fighting. Residents gave varying death tolls while the police had no comment. Iraqi security forces rarely venture into the area.
Last month, the Islamic Army urged Al Qaida, which is driven by foreign fighters, to review its policies of indiscriminate killings that have alienated home-grown insurgent groups. The Islamic Army is mainly made up of former army officers and supporters of Saddam Hussain's Baath Party.
An elderly man, who was too afraid to give his name, said the clashes had prompted many people to flee the area on foot and shop owners to close their stores.
Al Qaida militants have alienated many Sunni Arabs in Iraq in recent months. Amiriya residents said violence exploded after Islamic Army members entered the Al Qaida-controlled Mulouki mosque and began a heated argument with Al Qaida militants over recent killings.
Soon after they stormed out of the mosque, the minaret's loudspeakers blared out that Abu Teeba, believed to have been Al Qaida's number two in the area, had been assassinated, prompting dozens of Al Qaida gunmen to capture and kill at least six Islamic Army insurgents, according to residents.
Three more US soldiers killed
The US military yesterday reported three US soldiers killed in separate attacks in Baghdad and northwest of the capital.
The deaths raised to 122 the number of soldiers killed last month, the third-deadliest month of the war for US troops.
A roadside bomb killed two Multi-National Division - Baghdad soldiers and wounded two others on Wednesday as they were conducting combat operations in southwestern Baghdad, the military said.
Another Multi-National Division - Baghdad soldier died on Tuesday of wounds suffered in a roadside bombing the day before, during combat operations northwest of the capital, according to a separate statement...
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