The rebel Shiite cleric Muqtada Sadr has been wounded in clashes for the control of Najaf, his spokesman said today.
Sadr was said to be holed up in Najaf's sacred compound housing the Imam Ali shrine, surrounded by his followers. He has led an uprising against coalition troops for more than a week in the city, vowing to fight "until the last drop of my blood has been spilled".
Sadr was injured today as he was met with members of his Mahdi Army militia, near the Imam Ali shrine, said Haider Tousi, an Sadr aide.
He was hit with shrapnel in the chest and twice in a leg, Tousi said.
"He was moved to an unknown destination, we don't know his whereabouts right now," he said.
Another of his aides described Sadr's condition as stable.
US and Iraqi troops have formed a perimeter around the compound, but have so far made no move to raid it, concerned about touching off an outcry from the Muslim world about desecrating one of Islam's most revered sites.
Sadr reportedly told his followers to remain calm once news of his injuries emerged.
"We got a letter from him saying "Be steadfast and behave rationally, don't surrender to your emotions"," said Aws Khafaji, from Sadr's office in the southern town of Nasiriyah.
Another Sadr aide, Abdel Hadi Daraji, called on Iraqis to demonstrate Friday near the Green Zone in Baghdad, the location of most Iraqi government ministries, as well as the US and British embassies, to protest against the fighting in Najaf.
US troops yesterday stormed Sadr's house in Najaf, only to find it empty.
Sadr's fighters have battled coalition forces since 5 August in a resurgence of a spring uprising that was dormant for two months following a series of truces.
* A British journalist has been abducted from his hotel in the southern city of Basra, Iraqi police said Friday.
About 30 gunmen, including some dressed as police, stormed the Diyafah Hotel, said Capt. Hashem Abdullah.
The hotel owner Mohammed Uglah said gunmen found the man, reportedly a journalist for The Sunday Telegraph, and shot him twice in the leg before taking him away.