U.S. forces clash with Shiite militants in Sadr City; at least 34 killed
September 7, 2004
BAGHDAD, Iraq (AP) – U.S. forces battled insurgents loyal to radical Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr in the Baghdad slum of Sadr City on Tuesday, killing at least 34 people, including one U.S. soldier, U.S. and Iraqi authorities said.
U.S. Army Capt. Brian O’Malley said the American soldier was killed by small arms fire and that several others were wounded when militants attacked U.S. forces carrying out routine patrols.
“We just kept coming under fire,” he said.
Residents said loud explosions and gunfire could be heard across Sadr City on Monday night and that clashes spilled over into Tuesday morning.
A senior Health Ministry official, Saad al-Amili, said a total of 33 people have been killed and 193 injured in the Sadr City clashes in the past 24 hours. He said 15 people died and 67 were wounded on Tuesday morning alone.
The renewed fighting came after a period of calm in the impoverished neighborhood after al-Sadr called on his followers last week to observe a cease-fire and announced that he planned to enter politics.
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But al-Sadr aides later said peace talks in Sadr City between the cleric’s representatives and interim Prime Minister Ayad Allawi’s government had stalled, with the government refusing militant demands for American troops to keep out of the troubled district.
Government officials have since said they are not involved in any negotiations with al-Sadr’s militia. The Americans have said they never took part in any talks.
Al-Sadr led a three-week uprising in the holy city of Najaf that ended 10 days ago with a peace deal that allowed his Mahdi militia fighters to walk away with their guns. The combat in Najaf left thousands dead and devastated much of the city.
Many Mahdi militiamen are believed to have returned to their stronghold in Sadr City.