US troops approach key Iraqi city
US troops are reported to have reached the city of Karbala, a town of extreme importance for both peace campaigners and Muslims in Iraq.
Karbala, which is about 60 miles south of Baghdad, has traditionally been the location of resistance to Saddam Hussein, and has been held up as an example by Christians who suggest that Saddam Hussein might have been overthrown non-violently.
Karbala is revered as being the site of the death of the great Shia martyr Imam Hussein, a grandson of the Prophet Muhammad.
A few years ago, tens of thousands of Muslims gathered there for an annual religious occasion. Saddam's regime sent in troops because it feared disorder or an uprising. But they were so badly outnumbered by the civilians who came, that they were effectively encircled.
The incident has been held up as a graphic display of the limitations on Saddam's repressive apparatus if it has to respond to incidents away from Baghdad.
Althoug over the last few weeks the US has begun to encourage uprisings against the regime, using leaflet drops and radio broadcasts, it has found it hard to convince the population that it is on their side whilst it simultaneously drops bombs on their cities.
The population also remembers how the US failed to support uprisings after the Gulf War.
In 1991, Shia in Karbala and elsewhere rose up in rebellion against Saddam Hussein. However, the uprising was not supported by the United States and its allies and the Iraqi Republican Guard was able to suppress it.