U.S. warplanes attack insurgents in east Baghdad
Associated Press Writer
BAGHDAD, Iraq (AP) – U.S. warplanes fired on insurgent targets in the east Baghdad slum of Sadr City on Thursday in a second day of fighting in the Shiite militia stronghold. Iraqi doctors said one person was killed and 12 were injured, many of them children.
The U.S. military said they launched an operation overnight aiming to “disband and disarm” militia loyal to the rebel Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr and open way for reconstruction projects in the city.
The Thursday attacks followed a day of fierce clashes between American troops and fighters loyal to al-Sadr.
U.S. warplanes and helicopters roared overhead and residents said loud explosions could be heard for hours. Militia fighters returned fire with machine guns, they said.
An American Bradley fighting vehicle was hit by a rocket-propelled grenade and caught fire, according to a U.S. military report. It was not clear if there were any casualties.
The aim of the operation, dubbed “Iron Fist 2,” is to maintain pressure on al-Sadr by seizing weapons caches and detaining or killing his lieutenants, said Maj. Bill Williams, an acting battalion commander in the 1st Cavalry Division.
The Americans believe that Sadr have been increasing his authority in Sadr City after last months agreement to stop hostilities between his followers and U.S. troops, using the lull in fighting to improve his position.
“The main problem is that he has the militia,” Williams said. “Our goal is to pressure him to disband and disarm.”
The military says that the insurgents have laid down booby traps throughout Sadr City and have repeatedly fired mortars toward an American base on its outskirts.
Naim al-Kaabi, an official with al-Sadr’s office, said the U.S. bombardments lasted until the morning, but said there was no street fighting. U.S. vehicles patrolled the slum Thursday morning.
At least one person was killed and seven injured, said Dr. Qassim Saddam of Imam Ali Hospital. The nearby Al-Sadr General Hospital received five injured children, Dr. Atheer Al-Okabi said.
The Iraqi Interior Ministry had no immediate information on the attacks.
It was the third night of violence in the Shiite stronghold as U.S. forces crackdown on al-Sadr’s al-Mahdi Army.
Hospital officials said at least 10 people were killed and more than 90 injured in Wednesday’s clashes, but U.S. military officers monitoring the fighting put the Iraqi death toll that day at around 40. There was no word on U.S. casualties.
“The intent is to provide security for the people of Thawra so we can get back to the business of reconstruction,” said 1st Cavalry Division commanding general Maj. Gen. Peter Chiarelli in a Wednesday statement. Thawra is an old name for Sadr City. The district is now named for Muqtada al-Sadr’s father, a revered cleric killed under Saddam Hussein’s regime.
Associated Press Writer Sinan Salaheddin contributed to this story.