US soldiers have killed eight suspected Shiite militants in latest clashes in Baghdad’s militia strongholds, which involved attack aircraft as well as an Abrams main battle tank, the military said Saturday. One US soldier was also killed in a roadside bomb attack.
About 75 people were also wounded in the clashes, which happened on Friday in Ubaydi neighborhood and Baghdad’s embattled eastern Sadr City district, where Shiite militias and US and Iraqi forces have been locked in street battles since late March, Iraqi health officials said yesterday.
US soldiers killed eight militants in the fighting, including a sniper and a triggerman accused of staging armor-piercing roadside bombs known as explosively formed penetrators in Sadr City and in the adjacent Ubaydi neighborhood in attacks that involved attack aircraft and an Abrams tank.
Several vehicles and buildings were destroyed in the clashes, police said.
In fresh violence in Baghdad, a roadside bomb yesterday morning killed one civilian and wounded eight traffic policemen in the western neighborhood of Nafaq al-Shurta, police said.
On Friday, another roadside bomb attack killed a US soldier in eastern Baghdad, the military said, raising to at least 4,065 the number of US military personnel who have died since the Iraq war started in March 2003.
A mortar round apparently fired by Shiite extremists toward the US-protected Green Zone, housing the US embassy and government buildings, fell short and killed two civilians and wounded seven others in the central Salihiyah district on Friday evening, police said.
As clashes escalated in Sadr City, Shiite clerics offered sharply different visions on Friday in the showdown between government forces and Shiite militias — one predicting that armed groups will be crushed in Baghdad and another calling for the prime minister to be prosecuted for crimes against his people.
The contrasting views — given during weekly sermons — showed the complexities and risks in the five-week-old crackdown by the Iraqi government and US forces on Shiite militia factions. The clashes have brought deep rifts among Iraq’s Shiite majority and have pulled US troops into difficult urban combat in the main militia stronghold in Baghdad.
But Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, a Shiite, has shown no indication of easing the pressure on militia groups including the powerful Mahdi Army led by cleric Moqtada al-Sadr.
Iraqi and US forces are pressing deeper into Sadr City, a slum of 2.5 million people that serves as the Mehdi Army’s base in Baghdad. Al-Maliki is also seeking to increase leverage on Iran, which is accused of training and arming some Shiite militia groups.
A five-member Iraqi delegation was sent to Tehran this week trying to try to choke off suspected Iranian aid to militiamen.
Haider al-Ibadi, a lawmaker from the Iraqi prime minister’s Dawa party, said the envoys presented a “list of names, training camps and cells linked to Iran,” but the “Iranians did not admit anything.”
The fighting in Sadr City picked up after al-Sadr threatened last week to wage “open war” on US-led troops and refused to disband the estimated core of 60,000 Mehdi Army fighters.
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