12 people died in overnight clashes in Baghdad's Sadr City district, police and hospital officials said Saturday. Iraqi troops also kept up the pressure on Shiite gunmen in the southern city of Basra, where they fanned out through a stronghold of the Mahdi Army.
In Sadr City's general hospital, officials said 71 people were admitted for treatment of wounds received in the fighting. The hospital also received 12 bodies, said an official, according to the AP.
The fighting came amid reports that Iraqi troops backed up by U.S. forces were trying to recapture a position in the district abandoned a day ago by a company of government soldiers.
The U.S. military said one of its attack helicopters located and hit a mortar crew in Sadr City at 3:30 a.m. Saturday, killing two gunmen and destroying the weapon.
Clashes were also reported near Nasiriyah, a city about 200 miles southeast of Baghdad. Authorities imposed a curfew on the town of Suq al-Shiyoukh after a firefight in which one gunman was killed and six policemen injured.
Meanwhile, the U.S. military said an American soldier was killed by a roadside bomb while on patrol in Salahuddin province. The statement raised to at least 4,038 the number of members of the U.S. military who have died since the war started in March 2003.