Combined US and Iraqi forces have killed as many of 250 gunmen in heavy fighting near the holy Shi’ite city of Najaf. American tanks and helicopters joined the day-long battle and US forces say one of their helicopters went down the cause of the crash as yet unknown. Reports suggest that the gunmen were both Sunni and Shi’ite loyal to Ahmed Hassani al-Yemeni an apocalyptic cult leader.
The fighting began as hundreds of thousands of Shi’ite pilgrims descended on Kerbala for the climax of the annual shi’ite religious festival of Ashura. Governor of Najaf Assad Abu Gilel, said a plot had been uncovered to attack a number of high ranking Shi ‘ite clerics to coincide with the climax of the festival.
There was more carnage in Bagdhad as two mortars hit a girls school in a mainly Sunni Neighbourhood to the west of the capital killing five and wounding as many as 20. The pupils were taking a break from classes when the mortars landed in the playground blowing out the windows, spraying the girls with shards of glass.