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US withdraws troops from Karbala center

American commanders said Thursday that they were withdrawing their troops from the besieged center of the holy city of Karbala.

After more than a week of intense combat and amid intensifying scrutiny of military actions throughout the country, American commanders said Thursday that they were withdrawing their troops from the besieged center of the holy city of Karbala, The New York Times reported.

It comments that the battles in downtown Karbala, in southern Iraq, are now the fiercest in Iraq.

"Entire city blocks around the Mukhaiyam Mosque have been damaged in the fighting, and combat has been inching closer and closer to two of the holiest sites in Shiite Islam, the golden-domed Shrine of Hussein and Shrine of Abbas, dedicated to martyrs related to the Prophet Muhammad."

Heavy gunfire and explosions were reported Friday in the holy cities of Karbala and Najaf, where American troops are battling fighters loyal to radical cleric Muqtada al-Sadr.

Eight Iraqi civilians have been killed and 10 more wounded in battles in Imam Hussein and Imam Abass' shrines in downtown Karbala, AFP reported.

Later in the day it emerged that member of Al-Jazeera TV team has been shot dead during the heavy fighting in the town of Karbala.

A Bulgarian infantry unit has been deployed in the restive southern city of Karbala as part of a 9,000-strong Polish-led multinational contingent.