Iraq: US bombs Shi'ites —again
US and Iraqi troops backed by attack aircraft clashed with suspected Shi'ite militiamen in Baghdad, bombing houses and battling more than a dozen snipers on rooftops. Residents and police said at least 14 people were killed.
The fighting occurred before dawn Thursday in a stronghold of anti-American Shi'ite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr's Mahdi Army. Al-Sadr has ordered his militia not to carry out any more attacks for up to six months...
The operation in the western Baghdad area of Washash involved Iraqi and U.S. special forces acting on a tip against a Shi'ite cell accused of attacking local police and engaging in extortion as well as execution-style killings of Sunnis, the U.S. military said.
The military reported four buildings were damaged, "including two enemy strongholds that sustained major damage and two surrounding buildings that sustained moderate damage." The military statement mentioned no casualties.
Residents reported hearing explosions at about 3 a.m., which persisted for nearly an hour.
A police officer, speaking on the condition of anonymity for his own safety, said U.S. helicopters had attacked the area, killing 14 civilians and wounding 10.
The Iraqi government, meanwhile, called a critical independent U.S. assessment of its security posture unacceptable interference in its affairs.
The study, released Wednesday and led by retired Marine Corps Gen. James Jones, found that Iraq's security forces will be unable to take control of the country in the next 18 months. It said the Iraqi National Police is so rife with corruption that it should be scrapped entirely.
A photo accompanying the story showed a crying woman clutching a small boy in a scene of wreckage and rubble, the caption reading: "A neighbor carries Montadar Ali, 4, who lost his entire family when his house was destroyed in an attack in Baghdad."
Meanwhile, US troop levels in Iraq have grown to an all-time high of 168,000. "Force rotations are continuing, and we have approximately 168,000 US troops in Iraq that are conducting operations alongside Iraqi security forces, conducting reliefs in place and transfers of authority, and training Iraqi security forces," said Major General Richard Sherlock, director of operational planning for the Joint Staff.
Sherlock said the arrival of more combat brigades will temporarily push the total to as high as 172,000 over the coming months before it falls back to about 160,000 troops by November or December as other units leave. (AFP, Sept. 6)
Seeing is believing.