At least 24 dead in central Baghdad clashes
Some 20 gunmen were killed and nine suspects detained amid fierce clashes in central Baghdad, the US and Iraqi authorities said on Wednesday. US military spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Scott Bleichwehl told AFP that 20 militants were "killed in action" during the fighting that broke out early Tuesday and raged for several hours.
A separate statement issued on behalf of Operation Fardh al-Qanoon (Imposing Law) by Iraqi authorities said "19 terrorists" were killed over the past 24 hours in the central Rusafa region. "The operation was part of military plan Fardh al-Qanoon to get rid of terrorists and takfiris (Sunni extremists) during the past 24 hours," it said.
Iraqi and US forces backed by helicopter gunships battled gunmen in the Al-Fadhel area of Rusafa, in firefights that the US military said late Tuesday had killed four Iraqi soldiers and injured 16 US soldiers. US combat helicopters were slightly damaged when they came under small arms fire during the gunfights and briefly had to return to base.
According to Bleichwehl, 13 of the 16 injured US soldiers had since returned to duty and that on Wednesday there was "currently no fighting or large-scale operation ongoing in that area."
On Tuesday, Iraqi and US troops conducting routine cordon and search operations in Rusafa were rapidly ambushed by small arms fire in Al-Fadhel, and air assets were called in, the US military said. The Iraqi statement released on Wednesday also said that "29 terrorists and 38 suspects" were arrested across Baghdad in the past 24 hours.
Three more militants were killed in other clashes during the same period, the statement added.
The Muslim Scholars Association, a Sunni group, issued a statement quoting witnesses as saying Tuesday's clash started after Iraqi forces entered a mosque and executed two young men in front of other worshippers. Ground forces used tear gas on civilians, it said.
"The association condemns this horrible crime carried out by occupiers and the government," the statement said.
In other violence Wednesday, a roadside bomb killed one policeman and injured three others in Hillah, about 60 miles south of Baghdad, police said. Another roadside bomb targeted a police patrol in Mosul, 225 miles northwest of Baghdad, killing another policeman and wounding two others, police said, according to the AP. Six civilians also were wounded, said Brig. Abdul Karim Khalaf.