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Wednesday, August 25, 2004

NAJAF, Iraq (Reuters) - U.S. planes unleashed a fierce attack on rebel targets in Najaf early on Thursday, a Reuters witness said.

The air strikes shook Najaf just after U.S. artillery fire and cannon assaults from an AC-130 gunship rattled the Iraqi city of 500,000.

Militiamen loyal to radical cleric Moqtada al-Sadr have endured several nights of U.S. air attacks aimed at forcing them to lay down their weapons and leave a shrine where they are holed up.

After the attack gray smoke was seen rising near the Imam Ali mosque. U.S. forces have been tightening their siege on Shi'ite militants holed up there.

The city which has been gripped by three weeks of fighting

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