US military raids Sadr City

BAGHDAD (AP) — US and Iraqi troops raided Sadr City on Sunday, targeting Shiite insurgent cells in the Baghdad slum for a second day, while British forces stepped up pressure on Shiites in the southern city of Basra, killing three in an overnight operation, the US and British military said.

The raids came two days after anti-American Shiite cleric Moqtada Sadr emerged from hiding with a call for Sunnis and Shiites to band together to force foreign troops out of Iraq. Sadr’s Mehdi Army has repeatedly battled with US and British troops in the streets of Sadr City and Basra.

On Friday, just hours after Sadr delivered a sermon in the holy Shiite city of Kufa, British and Iraqi troops killed the Mehdi Army commander in Basra in a gunfight. Insurgents responded with attacks on British troops and Iraqi forces there.

The attacks continued late Saturday and early Sunday when British camps in the city were shelled repeatedly, British troops said in a statement.

The British, meanwhile, carried out an arrest raid early Sunday when their forces were attacked with roadside bombs, rocket propelled grenades and small arms fire, the British said. The troops returned fire, killing three of their attackers. No British forces were injured. The troops also arrested four insurgents.

Meanwhile, in Kut, 160 kilometres southeast of Baghdad, 70 police officers resigned Sunday morning and handed over their weapons. They cited their fears of being targeted by Mehdi Army, police said.

In Sadr City, US and Iraqi forces carried out several raids targeting insurgent cells, arresting one suspect believed to be involved in smuggling Iran high-powered, armour piercing bombs from Iran that have been used against US armoured vehicles, the US military said. The cell has also sent Iraqi insurgents to Iran for training, the military said.

During another raid in Sadr City, troops shot an approaching vehicle that ignored their signals to stop, the military said. No one was injured in the shooting, but the vehicle was set ablaze, the military said.

AP Television News footage showed several cars burned and destroyed in the street, including a van that was scorched black, had its windows knocked out and its upholstery incinerated. The footage also showed a house that appeared to have been ransacked.

On Sunday, gunmen in two cars threw concussion grenades at a popular market in northern Baghdad and then opened fire at shoppers, killing one person and injuring eight others, police said. Later, the same gunmen ambushed a minibus, killing the driver, stealing the vehicle and abducting six passengers, police said.

The US military also reported late Saturday the deaths of eight US troops, bringing the number of soldiers killed so far this month to at least 100 and putting May on pace to become the deadliest month for US troops here in more than 2 1/2 years.

US forces raided an Al Qaeda hide-out northeast of Baghdad on Sunday and freed 42 Iraqis imprisoned inside, including some who had been tortured and suffered broken bones, a senior US military official said Sunday. 

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