Scores, including U.S. soldiers, killed in Iraq as two Italian women held hostage
U.S. forces battled activists loyal to Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr in the Baghdad slum of Sadr City on Tuesday, killing at least 36 people, including one U.S. soldier, and injuring 203 people, U.S. and Iraqi authorities said.
The fighting in Sadr City erupted when Shiite fighters attacked U.S. forces carrying out routine patrols, said U.S. Army Capt. Brian O'Malley. "We just kept coming under fire," he said.
O'Malley said the American soldier was killed by small arms fire and that several others were wounded. Residents said loud explosions and gunfire could be heard across Sadr City on Monday night and that clashes spilled over into Tuesday.
An al-Sadr spokesman in Baghdad, Sheikh Raed al-Kadhimi, blamed what he described as intrusive American incursions into Sadr City and attempts to arrest the cleric's followers. "Our fighters have no choice but to return fire and to face the U.S. forces and helicopters pounding our houses," al-Kadhimi said in a statement, quoted by The AP.
A top Health Ministry official, Saad al-Amili, said a total of 35 people have been killed and 203 injured in the Sadr City clashes in the past 24 hours. He said 15 people died and 67 were wounded on Tuesday morning alone.
Since midday Monday, five US troops, including the one mentioned earlier in the story, have been killed in Iraq, the U.S. Army said in separate statements Tuesday.
One soldier was killed when his convoy was hit by a roadside bomb near the Iraqi capital late Monday. One soldier died early Tuesday from wounds sustained from a roadside bombing against his convoy a day earlier in Baghdad.
Another American died Monday from wounds sustained during an unspecified attack in Baghdad. Additional soldier was killed in a roadside bomb attack near Qayarrah, just north of Baghdad.
In other incidents in Iraq, the son of the governor of the northern city of Mosul was killed in a drive-by shooting Tuesday, hospital officials said. Elsewhere, unknown gunmen killed the deputy director of Baghdad's al-Karama hospital, the Health Ministry said, according to The AP.
Two Iraqi policemen were killed and two others injured in a drive-by shooting in Latifiyah, south of Baghdad late Monday, police said.
Meanwhile, two Italian women working for an aid agency in Iraq have been kidnapped, the agency said Tuesday. Gunmen in olive green uniforms broke into the group's Baghdad offices and took the women along with two Iraqis, neighbors said.
Witnesses reported some 15 men drove up to the one-story villa used by the group, "A Bridge To...," and broke in. The men claimed to work for the office of interim Prime Minister Ayad Allawi, the witnesses said.
A government spokesman denied that Allawi's office was involved, and said that workers had been kidnapped.
© 2004 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com)