Also, rumblings from Tehran. From AP, with thanks to JJP Mackie:
BAGHDAD, Iraq (AP) – Fighters loyal to radical cleric Muqtada al-Sadr drove Italian forces from a base in the southern city of Nasiriyah on Sunday and attacked coalition headquarters there with grenade and mortar fire as tensions in the Shiite region escalated.
Two U.S. soldiers died elsewhere, and gunmen killed three Iraqi women working for the U.S. led-coalition. Amid the ongoing violence, the United States is looking to move some of its 37,000 U.S. troops stationed in South Korea to bolster forces in Iraq, South Korean and U.S. officials said.
Two Iraqi fighters were killed and 20 were wounded in battles in Nasiriyah, mostly at two bridges across the Euphrates, residents said.
The Italian troops evacuated their base as it came under repeated attack. Portuguese police were called out to support the Italians, their first action since the force of 128 deployed to Nasiriyah in November, a Portuguese duty officer said, speaking on condition of anonymity.
At least 10 Italians were wounded, one critically, contingent spokesman Lt. Col. Giuseppe Perrone told The Associated Press by phone. He said the Italians relocated to the nearby Tallil air base.
Also in Nasiriyah, a convoy transporting the Italian official in charge of the city, Barbara Contini, came under attack as it neared the headquarters of the U.S.-led Coalition Provisional Authority, Perrone said. Two Italian paramilitary police were wounded. …
Apparent gunfire slightly damaged one of Shia Islam’s holiest shrines in Najaf on Friday, prompting calls for revenge against the Americans and even suicide attacks against the coalition.
The U.S. military has said al-Sadr’s al-Mahdi Army was probably responsible, but Iran’s supreme leader on Sunday accused the United States of damaging the shrine through “shameless” and “foolish” actions.
“Muslims can’t tolerate the shameless incursion of American forces into sacred places,” Ayatollah Ali Khamenei was quoted as saying by the official Islamic Republic News Agency.
Two U.S. tanks were stationed Sunday in a main square in Najaf, while militiamen held positions in the cemetery and other areas.
Several mosque imams from Fallujah, a Sunni stronghold west of Baghdad that was the site of heavy fighting last month, visited al-Sadr in Najaf to show solidarity. The siege of Fallujah by U.S. Marines ended when the coalition allowed an Iraqi force led by former officers in Saddam Hussein’s army to take over security in the city.