Wednesday, January 19, 2005

Clashes in Ramadi.

RAMADI, Iraq, Jan 19 (Reuters) - Clashes broke out in three areas of the western Iraqi city of Ramadi on Wednesday after insurgents fired rocket-propelled grenades at a U.S. patrol, witnesses said.

U.S. forces backed by at least 10 armoured vehicles reinforced positions as helicopter gunships and warplanes flew over the eastern part of the city, an area that has witnessed frequent fighting.

There was no immediate word on casualties but witnesses said the guerrillas destroyed a U.S. Humvee and civilians were caught up in the fighting.

The Ramadi fighting came after insurgents detonated a suicide truck bomb outside Australia's embassy in Baghdad and hit Iraqi security targets with at least three car bombs, killing 26 less than two weeks before Jan. 30 elections.

U.S. Marines captured the former rebel bastion of Falluja in November but guerrillas continue to mount attacks from a stronghold in Ramadi, 110 km (68 miles) west of Baghdad.

Insurgents have stepped up bombings and assassinations ahead of the polls, which they believe are heavily influenced by the interim Iraqi government's American allies.

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