BAGHDAD, Iraq, June 10 — Insurgents commandeered a police station in the southern holy city of Najaf today after overnight gun battles, casting further doubt on the viability of a cease-fire announced there last week.
The governor of Najaf, Adnan Zurfi, said in an interview that he intended to rely on Iraqi security forces to retake the police station, a large building in the center of the city, but he said he would would call for help from American forces if needed.
Rebels overran the station after an earlier attempt failed, looting and burning parts of it. A local hospital reported that one police officer and one civilian were killed in the raid, and the militia said that two of its members were also killed.
The attacks, and another at the same station on Monday, came in spite of a declared cease-fire on June 4 by American authorities and Moktada al-Sadr, a radical Shiite cleric leading a rebel insurgency centered in Najaf and nearby Kufa.
It was unclear whether the attacks were sanctioned by commanders of the militia, known as the Mahdi Army. Some members are said to no longer obey Mr. Sadr. But if the attacks were sanctioned, it would clearly indicate a breach of the truce and raise serious doubts about whether the American occupation troops and their allies can quell armed resistance before the transfer of sovereignty on June 30.
The cease-fire announced on June 4 was the second such truce declared in Mr. Sadr’s strongholds. But with the failure of the first, and doubts surrounding the viability of the second, many Iraqis question whether a cease-fire will ever hold.
The overnight battles at the police station followed a day of insurgent attacks on several fronts in Iraq, including a mortar attack at an Iraqi militia brigade west of here that set ablze two important oil pipelines in the north, and an ambush of an American military convoy in the capital.
The American military also said gunmen killed two bodyguards of a local politician in Baghdad on Tuesday and seriously wounded the politician.
The attack on the militia unit took place near the volatile town of Falluja, about 30 miles west of here. Insurgents lobbed mortars at a camp housing members of the Falluja Brigade, which was set up by United States marines in late April to try to pacify the virulently anti-American city. The attack wounded a militia member, said Brig. Gen. Mark Kimmitt, a spokesman for the occupation forces.
The 2,000-member brigade is composed partly of guerrillas who were fighting the marines and is led by Gen. Muhammad Latif, a former Baath Party member who fell out of favor with Saddam Hussein.
The attack highlighted the complex fractures among insurgent groups in the Falluja area, which has essentially become a safe haven for anti-American forces since the marines relinquished control.
The marines used concrete barriers to block off two roads leading to the city from Baghdad. Tanks, Humvees and other armored vehicles were seen parked or driving around farm pastures off the main highway outside the city.
A wooden sign on the highway said in Arabic, “No entry into the city.”
Mahdi Army fighters launched their first attack on the police station in Najaf, 120 miles south of Baghdad, late Wednesday night, but were fought off by police. In the early hours today, officers were seen pursuing the insurgents through the neighborhood, with gunfire from AK-47’s echoing through the streets.
But the insurgents returned to the station later in the morning and successfully overran it.
On Monday evening the insurgents had attempted a similar attack on the same station but failed to seize it, Mr. Zurfi, the American-installed governor, said. He added that he had ordered more policemen to the area and had given permission to fire on any attackers.
Ahmad Shaibani, an aide to Mr. Sadr, took issue with an order signed earlier this week by L. Paul Bremer III, the American administrator in Iraq, which would appear to bar Mr. Sadr from running for office in planned elections. Mr. Bremer’s order prohibits members or leaders of illegal militias from being candidates.
Mr. Bremer “has no right to determine the nature of the elections and whether militias have the right to participate or not,” Mr. Shaibani said.
Sabah Mahdi, a manager in a hotel in the city, said “the whole process is disappointing” because “Mahdi Army fighters are still here, and their weapons are still here despite the latest agreement.”