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Three International MPs Killed in Iraq

October 17, 2003

KARBALA,Iraq (AP) _ Three international military policemen were killed in a midnight clash in this restive shrine city, witnesses said Friday. Conflicting reports said the dead were either Polish or American soldiers.

The U.S. command in Baghdad, 50 miles to the north, said it had no immediate information on the bloodshed.

Gunfire broke out again Friday morning in the same area, around the offices of a senior Shiite Muslim cleric in Karbala, where rivalries among Shiite factions have produced sporadic violence in recent weeks.

An armored personnel carrier appeared to be firing as screaming men, women and children fled for cover. Shiite gunmen defiantly shouted ``Allahu Akbar,″ or ``God is Great.″

Iraqi policemen who were at the scene said a fellow officer also was killed in the firefight. A gunman who claimed that he took part said seven of his comrades were killed in the clash.

This man, Malik Kazim, said it involved an apparent joint American-Polish patrol of armored vehicles and Humvees that passed at about 11:45 p.m. by the offices of a local senior Shiite Muslim cleric, Mahmoud al-Hassani, which were guarded by at least 20 gunmen. The report could not be confirmed.

Since Karbala has been under a 9 p.m. curfew since Tuesday, the international patrol ordered the gunmen inside the offices, they refused and a gunbattle ensued, Kazim said.

He said intense gunfire lasted about a half-hour. Dozens of bullet holes, some large-caliber, could be seen in walls in the area Friday morning.

A Shiite participant in the gunbattle, Sheik Hazem Saadi, said the dead were Americans. Iraqi policemen who were at the scene said they believed those killed were Polish military policemen.

Polish forces lead an international brigade responsible for postwar security in the Karbala area, commanding some 9,500 peacekeepers from 21 nations, including 2,400 Poles. The 31,000-square-mile area was handed over by American forces last month.

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