WASHINGTON -- Iraqi security forces and U.S. Marines battled suspected members of radical cleric Muqtada al-Sadr's militia during what was described as a "large-scale" and "repeated" attack on the main police station in Najaf, military officials reported today.
Media reports from today's fighting said that a Multinational Force Iraq helicopter had been shot down, though a military statement said only that the helicopter was forced to make an emergency landing. The crew and the helicopter, the statement said, had been recovered.
At least seven of the militia fighters were killed, and as many as 22 were wounded and taken into custody, according to Falah al-Nakib, Iraq's interior minister.
Today's fighting is the fiercest since a cease-fire agreement was reached in June between the multinational force and Sadr.
Military officials called the attack an "overt violation" of the cease-fire agreement, which was brokered by the governor of Najaf, local civic leaders and the Bayt al-Shiia-the informal council of senior Shiia clerics.
A Multinational Force Iraq news release said coalition forces responded at the Najaf governor's request and rapidly provided reinforcement to Iraqi police and National Guard units.
"All of these terrorists and killers are working for the same organization, regardless of which banners they carry or which hats they wear," said Nakib. "They attacked Iraqi police, and we must respond. We have the thugs isolated. Our police forces, supported by the Multinational Force, are doing their job."
Anti-Iraqi terrorists have an extreme disregard for Iraq's laws and the lives of innocent Iraqi citizens, officials said.
Multinational forces continue to work closely with the Iraqi police, National Guard, and security forces to prevent and repel these attacks, the interior minister said. "Our brothers, the Iraqi police and supporting forces have gained glorious victories in their efforts to make Iraq a strong, sovereign nation."