U.S., Iraqi troops martyr 250 jihadi heroes outside Najaf

The gunmen were a mix of Sunnis and Shiites? Huh?

U.S. and Iraqi forces killed 250 gunmen in a fierce battle involving U.S. tanks and helicopters on the outskirts of the Shi’ite holy city of Najaf on Sunday, a senior Iraqi police officer said…

Shi’ite political sources said the gunmen appeared to be both Sunni Arabs and Shi’ites loyal to a cleric called Ahmed Hassani…

The governor of Najaf province said Iraqi troops fought a day-long battle with up to 200 Sunni gunmen, including foreign fighters, holed up in orchards on the northern outskirts of the city, seat of Iraq’s most powerful Shi’ite clerics.

Governor Asaad Abu Gilel told Reuters the authorities had uncovered a plot to kill some of the clerics on Monday, to coincide with the climax of Ashura.

They shot down a U.S. chopper during the fight. Two crew members dead.

Update Hassani is — was? — affiliated with Sadr, says Dan Riehl. What in the hell is he doing fighting alongside Sunnis, then?

Update: The Times sheds some light, but not much: “A Shiite member of the Iraqi Parliament, however, said the gunmen were part of a Shiite splinter group that Saddam Hussein helped build in the 1990s to compete with followers of the venerated religious leader Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani.”