'40 dead' as US rockets hit Fallujah mosque

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The Independent Online

Forty Iraqis were reportedly killed when a US helicopter struck a mosque with three missiles today in the central Iraqi city of Fallujah.

Forty Iraqis were reportedly killed when a US helicopter struck a mosque with three missiles today in the central Iraqi city of Fallujah.

Cars ferried bodies of the dead from the scene and part of the wall surrounding the Abdul-Aziz al-Samarrai mosque was demolished, said an AP reporter, Abdul-Qader Saadi, who added that the mosque building itself was not damaged.

The strike came as worshippers gathered for afternoon prayers, witnesses said. An angry crowd gathered as the wounded were taken to makeshift hospitals.

US Marines have beseiged Fallujah, west of Baghdad, for the past three days in a major operation aimed at uprooting Sunni insurgents.

In other developments in Iraq today, an aide to Muqtada al-Sadr was killed in a clash with Polish troops, Ukrainian forces withdrew from Kut, and a US military helicopter was forced into an mergency landing.

In Karbala, militiamen loyal to the radical Sha cleric Muqtada al-Sadr clashed with Polish troops and one of his aides was reportedly killed.

Fighters from the militia of cleric Muqtada al-Sadr fired on a Polish patrol in Karbala, sparking a gunbattle in the streets. During the fighting, it was reported that Muntadhir Mussawi - who is also a cleric - was killed.

In Kut, the Ukrainian military withdrew its troops after heavy fighting with Shia militants.

"There were no Ukrainian casualties (overnight), but several dozen militants were killed," said the Ukrainian Defence Ministry spokesman, Lt. Col. Andriy Lysenko.

One Ukrainian soldier was killed and five were wounded in Kut yesterday.

In Baqouba, a US military helicopter made an emergency landing after it was hit by small arms fire, the military said.

The military reported that no one was wounded in the incident and the military planned to transport the OH-58 Kiowa helicopter to a nearby base by truck.

AP photographer Mohammed Adnan earlier said he heard an explosion and then saw a military helicopter burning on the ground in a field near a residential neighborhood in Baqouba. US troops closed off the site.

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