BAGHDAD, May 11 (UPI) -- Followers of rebel Shiite cleric Moqtada Sadr opened fire at demonstrators calling for their withdrawal from the holy city of Najaf in central Iraq Tuesday.
Witnesses told United Press International that the protesters staged a sit-in at the sacred mausoleum of Imam Ali, the holiest Shiite shrine, to press for the pullout of Sadr's al-Mehdi Army, which has been fighting U.S. forces for several weeks, causing extensive damage and insecurity in the holy city.
They said the protesters who want a local Iraqi police force to take up security control of the city were unarmed when they came under fire by Sadr's followers.
There were no reports of possible casualties.
Sadr, wanted by the Coalition Authority for suspicion of involvement in the slaying of a rival Shiite cleric last year, has been hiding in Najaf, which U.S. forces avoided to raid in order not to provoke Shiite anger.
Sadreddine al-Kabnahi, a spokesman for the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI), said an agreement was reached with Sadr to pull out his al-Mehdi Army from Najaf next week.
Kabhani urged the city's residents to keep calm and exercise self-restraint to pave the way for the eventual pullout.
In the meantime, a U.S. army spokesman said 13 fighters from the al-Medhi Army were killed in the nearby city of Koufa in overnight fighting with coalition forces.
He said 14 other Shiite insurgents were imprisoned.