Thursday, May 31, 2007

Rival insurgent groups clash in Baghdad

BAGHDAD, May 31 (Reuters) - Sunni Muslim Iraqi insurgents fought fierce battles on Thursday with al Qaeda-led militants for control of a neighbourhood in Baghdad that has effectively been outside government control for months.

Residents said the fighting in the southwestern district of Amiriya was between the Islamic Army in Iraq, one of the largest insurgent groups fighting U.S. and Iraqi forces, and the Qaeda-led Islamic State in Iraq.

It was not clear how many people had been killed in several days of fighting. Residents gave varying death tolls while the police had no comment. Iraqi security forces rarely venture into the area.

Last month, the Islamic Army urged al Qaeda, which is driven by foreign fighters, to review its policies of indiscriminate killings that have alienated home-grown insurgent groups.

The Islamic Army is mainly made up of former army officers and supporters of Saddam Hussein's Baath Party.

An elderly man, who was too afraid to give his name, said the clashes had prompted many people to flee the area on foot and shop owners to close their stores.

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