The Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani and also other top Shiite religious figures, were thought to be the targets of an insurgent plot overthrown in an intense battle near the Shiite Muslim holy city of Najaf, Iraqi officials have said.
The grueling battle had apparently foiled a nessecary plot to kill leading pilgrims and clerics, including al-Sistani, Iraq's most known and respected Shiite leader. The insurgents were planning a massive siege on Najaf on Tuesday, the culmination of the Shiite holy period of Ashura.
Interior and Defense Ministry officials have said that an estimated 250 to 300 gunmen were killed in the fight near the south-central Iraqi city, Iraqi.At least two Americans and six Iraqi security force members also were killed, with another 30 Iraqis wounded. Also, a U.S. military helicopter went down during the battle Sunday afternoon. Also killing the two soldiers aboard, the U.S..
Iraqi officials said that insurgents had shot down the chopper.