Hundreds killed in Iraq battle
US and Iraqi forces have killed some 300 armed members of a Muslim cult in a day-long battle involving US tanks and aircraft near the holy city of Najaf, Iraqi police, Reuters reports quoting army and political sources.
The US military said on Monday it was an ongoing operation, so it could not provide any details.
An Iraqi army source said US forces took control of the operation on Sunday and had continued bombing the area until well after dawn on Monday.
Two Americans were killed, the US military said on Sunday, when an attack helicopter went down during the battle.
Güncelleme Tarihi: 20 Eylül 2018, 18:16
Iraqi officials said the helicopter seemed to have been shot down.
Reuters quoted police Colonel Ali Nomas as saying that 300 to 350 armed men had been killed in the operation and dozens more arrested. Three Iraqi soldiers were killed and six more missing, and five policemen were killed.
Another 40 Iraqi police and soldiers were wounded.
The US military officially handed over responsibility for Najaf province to Iraqi security forces last month, withdrawing most US troops, to be recalled only to help in emergencies.
According to one Iraqi political source, hundreds of fighters, drawn from both Sunni and Shia communities, fought throughout Sunday and late into the night.
A Reuters reporter at the scene, 160km south of Baghdad, saw US tanks and heard blasts after dark and an Iraqi officer said F-16 jets were bombing the area.
Details of the day's fighting were sketchy and the origins of the fighters unclear. An Iraqi army source said some of the dead wore headbands declaring themselves a "Soldier of Heaven".
The political source said up to 1,000 fighters had been involved.
An Iraqi army source said they wore camouflage and appeared well organised.
The governor of Najaf province said the group had gathered in orchards near the city and had been planning to attack the main Shia clerical leadership on Monday.
A million or more pilgrims gathered in Karbala, between Najaf and Baghdad, for Monday's ceremonies.
It is the climax of the annual Shia rite of Ashura, marking a 7th century battle which entrenched the schism between Shia and Sunni Islam.
Earlier on Sunday, five schoolgirls were killed and another 15 injured when a school in Baghdad came under mortar attack.
In Baghdad, at least 15 people were killed in bombings in mainly Shia areas, Iraqi police said. Two car bombs targeting ethnic Kurds killed 16 people in the northern oil city of Kirkuk.
In a videotape sent to Al Jazeera, the Council of Shura al-Mujahideen group said it has destroyed a US tank by a roadside explosive device in the western Iraqi province of Anbar.
In another videotape, the Jaish al-Mujahideen group said that it has destroyed a US military vehicle in the northern Iraqi city of Samarra.
Al Jazeera could not verify the two tapes from independent sources.