Baghdad: U.S. Army says Shiite groups violate truce
A fragile cease-fire failed to stop fighting in Baghdad's Sadr City where the latest clashes between Shiite gunmen and U.S.-backed Iraqi forces killed 11 men and injured 19, Iraqi hospital officials said Tuesday. According to the AP, the U.S. military said Tuesday that it responded to several attacks by militants with precision strikes, but only confirmed killing three militants. Two of the militants were killed in a Hellfire missile strike by an attack aircraft, according to the military. The American military also said troops suppressed "enemy fire" in four other clashes with tanks and attack aircraft.
The clashes erupted late Monday, just hours after Iraq's main Shiite political bloc and supporters of cleric Muqtada al-Sadr signed a cease-fire with the hope of ending seven-weeks of fighting that has left hundreds of people dead in the capital.
The U.S. Army said Tuesday that militants staged several attacks on U.S. soldiers in Sadr City and elsewhere. "They are obviously not listening to any agreement," Lt. Col. Steve Stover, a military spokesman for American troops in Baghdad, said Tuesday. He accused what he called "special groups" of launching attacks on U.S. and Iraqi troops.
The U.S. military has alleged that most Shiite gunmen fighting Iraqi and U.S. forces in Sadr City have splintered away from al-Sadr's Mahdi Army, and the cleric's level of influence over those rogue groups is unclear.
Stover also blamed the so-called "special groups" for a failed surface-to-air missile attack on a helicopter gunship over Sadr City on Saturday. The missile was fired from an unknown location in eastern Baghdad but missed the target, he said.
The talks between al-Sadr's representatives and the United Iraqi Alliance over the details of the truce were not finished until Monday. The deal allows Iraqi forces to take over security in the militia stronghold of Sadr City on Wednesday. "Any attack against residential areas, government offices and the Green Zone are prohibited from Sadr City or from another area," the cease-fire agreement said.
Under the compromise deal, Iraqi forces will try to refrain from seeking American help to restore order. The U.S. military officials on Sunday said they were supporting the government forces and would take their lead.