Some 250 Iraqis have been killed across the country since clashes erupted on Sunday in the southern city of Najaf before fighting swept across the country.

 

On Wednesday, 40 Iraqis were killed and scores injured in the city of Ramadi, Aljazeera's correspondent said.

 

The US military confirmed it lost 12 marines in Ramadi on Tuesday when a base came under attack. It was the deadliest single strike against occupation forces since the start of the war. 

 

The White House quickly declared that the raid would not oust forces from Iraq. US officials said there were "significant losses" to resistance fighters, but gave no further details.

 

Also on Wednesday, two US soldiers were killed in separate attacks in Baghad and Balad, north of the capital.

 

During the past three days US forces have lost 33 soldiers. A Ukrainian and Salvadoran were also killed.

 

Casualties

 

In the restive town of Falluja, at least 105 people were killed in the past 24 hours, including women and children, our correspondent said.

 

Four Iraqis died overnight in fresh clashes between occupation soldiers and al-Sadr loyalists in al-Sadr City, a suburban Baghdad stronghold. Another three Iraqi civilians died of injuries sustained in earlier fighting.


In the southern city of Karbala, Polish troops killed the head of al-Sadr's office.

 

Many children were among the
casualties

Earlier, US military officials said they would "destroy" al-Sadr's al-Mahdi army. US Brigadier General Mark Kimmitt also called on al-Sadr to turn himself in to face murder charges, and help end the violence.

 

Also, in the southern city of Kut, a South African working for a British security company was killed by al-Mahdi militiamen, reported sources from the occupation forces.

 

The sources said he had died when the house he was living in with other "contractors" was attacked by Shia militia.


Kut has been the scene of violent clashes for the past three
days between Shia militiamen and forces of the US-led

occupation.

 

In Tikrit, north of Baghdad, a US military base was hit by Katyusha rockets. "Columns of smoke were seen at the site of the attack but no casualties among the occupation troops were reported," said our correspondent in Tikrit.


Also, 15 followers of al-Sadr were arrested by the American forces in al-Shula area, west of Baghdad.

 

Retreat

Beleaguered Bulgarian troops called for US reinforcements in Karbala where pitched battles have been fought. And Ukrainian forces, on their part, have pulled out of Kut, the latest southern battlefront with al-Sadr supporters.

 

Five Iranians and three Iraqi civilians were killed when occupation soldiers opened fire on their vehicle near a checkpoint in the holy city.

Scores of Iraqi civilians have been killed and wounded by occupation fire since fighting broke out in the southern city of Najaf, before sweeping to Falluja, Ramadi, Nasiriya, Amara, Baghdad, Karbala, Kut, Kirkuk and Baquba. 

Men dig through the ruins of a
house destroyed in Falluja

And near the northern city of Kirkuk US occupation soldiers killed eight Iraqis, including a child, and injured 12 others in an exchange of gunfire during a demonstration to protest against US attacks on the besieged town of Falluja.

Some 1500 protesters in Hawija denounced what they described as the US massacres in Falluja, where almost 90 people, mainly civilians, have been killed in the past three days. US forces have sealed off Falluja for three days now in an effort to crush the resistance there. 

In Baquba, a US helicopter landed "after taking fire," reported US army. There were no reports of casualties.

Sistani's condemnation

Iraq's top Shia leader Ayat Allah Ali al-Sistani condemned the way US-led occupation forces were tackling the events in Iraq and called for calm on all sides and an end to violence.  

"We condemn the way the occupying forces are dealing with
current events, just as we condemn aggression against public and private property which leads to unrest and stops Iraqi officials from carrying out their duties in the service of the people," a statement issued by Sistani's office in Najaf said on Wednesday.

"We call for the matter to be dealt with wisdom and patience
and in peaceful ways, abstaining from any provocative steps
which will lead to more chaos and bloodshed."