12 US troops dead in latest battle

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Iraq / AFP
A Shiite supporter of Moqtada Sadr celebrating in Najaf yesterday.

Several Iraqi civilians were also killed as gunfights erupted around the Iraqi capital, bringing the death toll in the last three days of fighting to about 130 in the worst fighting since the war that toppled Saddam Hussein.

The assault had been promised after the killings and mutilations of four American civilians there last week.

As the US announced it was readying more troops for deployment to the region.

Increasing resistance from supporters of firebrand Shiite cleric Moqtada Sadr have been testing the resolve of the US coalition in Iraq over the past week.

There are three arrest warrants now issued against Sadr, with the charges including ordering a murder and stealing money from worshippers at mosques Najaf last year.