Plumes of black smoke rose above the embattled city of Najaf Tuesday after American warplanes bombed insurgent positions overnight and supporters of a radical cleric charged that shrapnel from a U.S. attack had hit parts of the Imam Ali Shrine. The military denied the claim.
In Baghdad, assailants targeted the convoys of the interim government's ministers of environment and education in two separate bombings Tuesday, officials said. Neither of the ministers was hurt, but at least five people were reported killed.
In one attack, a car bomb exploded in the southern Baghdad neighborhood of Kadisea as Environment Minister Miskhat Moumin was passing through in a convoy, ministry spokesman Dalal Ali said. Moumin escaped unharmed, Ali said.
Four people were killed and two others were injured in that blast, police and hospital officials said, reports Associated Press.
The statement said a U.S. aircraft saw militiamen firing the rocket from the northeast corner of Iraq's holiest Shi'ite shrine. "The rocket clipped the wall of the shrine and landed approximately 10 meters (yards) north of the wall. The shrine may have sustained damage due to the rocket," it said.
Each side in the Najaf fighting has accused the other of mounting attacks near the shrine and of failing to respect holy ground. Serious damage to the building would enrage many of the country's majority Shi'ites.
U.S.-led forces say they are taking care not to damage the shrine.
"Multi-National Forces operations have not, and will not direct fire at the Imam Ali Shrine. MNF forces continue to take great care in avoiding damage to the shrine and any other holy sites within Najaf," the U.S. statement said, informs Reuters.