Baghdad attack draws Shiite fire

first_imgThe criticism put new pressure on the Shiite prime minister, Nouri al-Maliki, who is under fire from U.S. critics over his government’s failure to achieve national unity. Elsewhere, an explosion killed one American soldier and wounded four in Salahuddin province, a mostly Sunni Arab area north of the capital. The blast came hours after suspected al-Qaida in Iraq fighters attacked police stations in Samarra, a city in the province about 60 miles north of Baghdad. A policeman, a woman and an 11-year-old girl were reported killed. The U.S. military said the battle in Baghdad erupted when a U.S. Army patrol came under fire shortly after midnight from gunmen on rooftops in Shula, a rundown Shiite neighborhood that is a stronghold of the Mahdi Army militia of anti-U.S. cleric Muqtada al-Sadr. Troops called in attack helicopters, which raked the rooftops with automatic weapons fire, a U.S. spokesman, Lt. Col. Scott Bleichwehl, said. During the battle, U.S. helicopters from the 1st Air Cavalry Brigade also fired on about a dozen armed militiamen “moving toward coalition forces” in Shula, the military said in a statement. IRAQ: Faction complains the al-Maliki regime is too weak to control actions of U.S. forces. By Robert H. Reid THE ASSOCIATED PRESS BAGHDAD – U.S. helicopters blasted rooftops in a Shiite neighborhood before dawn Friday as American troops battled gunmen on the ground, killing at least eight by the military’s count. Shiites claimed some civilians died and radicals castigated Iraq’s government as being too weak to rein in the Americans. The military first reported eight dead, then raised the figure to 18, but later returned to the lower figure. Bleichwehl said all the dead had been “identified as hostile” and there was “no collateral damage,” the U.S. term for civilian casualties. But Iraqi police and hospital officials said the dead included a woman and a young boy. Sixteen other people were wounded, including four women and three boys in their early teens who had been sleeping on the roofs to escape the summer heat, an official at Noor Hospital in Shula said. In Najaf, a leader of the pro-Sadr bloc, Nasser al-Rubaie, claimed 21 civilians were killed in Shula. He blamed al-Maliki’s government, saying it is “weak and can do nothing in the face of the occupation.” The wrangling comes as the White House and Congress are headed toward a showdown on the Iraq war. Next month, Gen. David Petraeus, the top military commander in Iraq, and U.S. Ambassador Ryan Crocker are expected to update Congress on the results of the decision earlier this year to send 30,000 additional troops to Iraq. The addition of troops was aimed at reducing violence so Iraq’s sectarian and ethnic communities could reach power-sharing deals essential for peace. But the political crisis reached a boil this month when the main Sunni political bloc pulled out of the government, accusing al-Maliki of failing to respond to their demands, including the release of security detainees held without charge. In an interview Friday, Iraq’s Sunni vice president, Tariq al-Hashemi, said his bloc withdrew when “we realized that the chance to reform had been lost and we had reached a deadlock with this government.” He said it was “out of the question” that Sunnis would rejoin the government. “I am afraid, the Shiites are afraid, and the Kurds are afraid,” he said. “We have to dispel these fears. Dispelling the fears occurs through adopting a common national vision. ? Every side must show their cards and say to the other side these are my reservations about you.” 160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set!last_img read more