NAJAF, Iraq : At least three people were killed as Spanish-led troops clashed with supporters of Shiite Muslim radical leader Moqtada Sadr outside this shrine city, in the most dangerous confrontation between the US-led coalition and Iraq's majority community.
Demonstrations also erupted in Baghdad and the southern port of Basra as the Shiite radicals pressed their demands for the US-led coalition to reopen a pro-Sadr newspaper shut down last week and to release a top Sadr aide who they claim was detained on Saturday.
The fighting outside Najaf came ahead of Monday's expected arrival in Iraq of UN envoy Lakhdar Brahimi who is charged with helping to resolve an impasse between the coalition and the Shiite majority over the nation's political future.
An AFP correspondent saw at least 20 people lying wounded on the ground, three of them clerics, amid the sound of explosions and gunfire on the main highway out of Najaf.
"We have received three dead and dozens of wounded but the toll will probably rise because more injured are being brought in," said Dr. Mohammed Hussein al-Husseini of Najaf's Al-Sadrein hospital.
Ambulances rushed to the scene and the shooting lasted for more than an hour.
US helicopters and jets flew overhead.
Accounts varied on how the fighting started.
An AFP correspondent said the clashes began when demonstrators hurled rocks at a convoy of six vehicles from the coalition's Spanish-led Plus Ultra Brigade and started shouting at them: "No, No to America. No, No to Israel."
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Deadly clashes between Iraqi Shiites and
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