Shelling rocked the Green Zone as a sandstorm blanketed Baghdad on Sunday, days after U.S. commanders said they had nearly eliminated deadly...
BAGHDAD — Shelling rocked the Green Zone as a sandstorm blanketed Baghdad on Sunday, days after U.S. commanders said they had nearly eliminated deadly rocket and mortar attacks on the heavily fortified government zone through a security crackdown in the eastern slum of Sadr City.
Clashes continued over the weekend in Sadr City, where U.S. and Iraqi forces have confronted fighters tied to the Mahdi Army, the Shiite militia loyal to anti-American cleric Muqtada al-Sadr. The U.S. military said drones fired Hellfire missiles, killing at least three men believed to be engaging in bomb attacks.
Today, the U.S. military said American and Iraqi troops killed 38 militants in fighting, including 22 in an attack Sunday night on a checkpoint in a Shiite militia stronghold in northeastern Baghdad.
The military says another 16 other militants were killed in separate clashes in the fiercest fighting in weeks in the capital.
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Abu Ammar al-Mayahi, a Mahdi Army fighter, said that U.S. and Iraqi forces continued to press into Sadr City on Sunday but that a dust storm curtailed U.S. use of air power.
Ground forces had been limited to city blocks at the edge of the district where authorities are building a security wall, he said.
Civilians living in the Green Zone said the rocket and mortar attacks Sunday were in double digits.
The continuing violence has dimmed hopes that a cease-fire order issued by Sadr in August and reaffirmed Friday would ease tensions in the city. Sadr said Friday that his call this month for an “open war until liberation” did not mean a fight against Iraq’s government, but rather “the occupier,” meaning U.S. and allied foreign troops.
The move was seen as an attempt to lower tensions between Sadr’s political movement and the Shiite-led government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. Maliki initiated the offensive against Shiite militiamen last month in the southern city of Basra, and it quickly spread to Baghdad. Iraqi commanders have described Sadr City, where the Mahdi Army holds much control, as a foothold for armed outlaws.
The neighborhood was the scene of a sit-in protest Sunday, led by members of the Sadr bloc in parliament, demanding an end to a three-week-old blockade of Sadr City and an end to military operations there.
Falah Hasan Shanshal, a parliament member and a Sadr City resident, was among the protesters. He called for “dialogue and understanding” in place of the fighting. He also called for a second sit-in today.
Information from The Associated Press is included in this report