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Troops seal roads near Shia cleric’s house

Karbala (Iraq), Oct. 18 (Reuters): US troops sealed off roads around the house of an Iraqi Shia cleric today and another sheikh warned the crackdown on radicals would only backfire.

Soldiers surrounded the buildings used by local cleric Sayyid Mahmoud al-Hassani with armoured vehicles and helicopters circled overhead.

Three US military police and two Iraqi police were killed on Thursday night in fighting in the city which US forces blamed on supporters of Hassani, himself a sympathiser of radical Shia leader Moqtada al-Sadr who opposes the US-led occupation of Iraq. US officers would not comment on whether they were hoping to arrest Hassani. His supporters said he had left his home after Thursday’s shootout in which local people said eight of his followers had been killed.

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