Clashes between US forces and Shiite gunmen south of Baghdad

Published April 7th, 2007 - 01:34 GMT

American warplanes attacked suspected militiamen wielding shoulder-fired rockets Saturday in the second day of fierce clashes between U.S. and Iraqi forces and Shiite gunmen south of Baghdad, U.S. and Iraqi officials and witnesses said.


At least one civilian died and five were seriously injured when an American tank fired on their house in Diwaniyah, 80 miles south of Baghdad, Iraqi police and hospital officials said, according to the AP.


US forces swept into the predominantly Shiite city of Diwaniyah before dawn on Friday, killing three militia fighters and capturing 27 in the first day of the assault, the military said. The attack - named "Operation Black Eagle" -targeted gunmen loyal to anti-American cleric Muqtada al-Sadr. Fighting continued Saturday.


On Friday, a spokesman for al-Sadr's political movement in Baghdad denied there was any exchange of fire in Diwaniyah. "There is only an unprovoked attack by invading American troops," spokesman Haider al-Natiq told Al-Arabiya television.


But on Saturday, al-Sadr's office in Diwaniyah suggested the fighting was not one-sided and claimed gunmen destroyed three US vehicles and seized a robot used to explode roadside bombs.


In other violence, a roadside bomb exploded next to a joint American-Iraqi army patrol early Saturday on a highway leading into Annah, 175 miles northwest of Baghdad. Two Iraqi soldiers were killed and two were wounded, the Iraqi military said.


Police in Fallujah, west of Baghdad, reported finding four bodies in the center of the city. The corpses showed signs of torture and had been shot in the head.


In Baghdad, two American troops were killed and seven were injured by two separate roadside bombs in Baghdad Friday. One U.S. soldier was killed and four were wounded in an attack with an armor-piercing explosively formed projectile, or EFP, the military said in a statement.


Another roadside bomb killed one U.S. soldier and wounded three others Friday in western Baghdad, the military said in another statement.


U.S. forces also killed Saturday one suspect and captured eight others in raids in Baghdad and south of Ramadi, the provincial capital of Anbar, the military said.


On Saturday, Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari said that ministers from Iraq's neighboring states, the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council and industrialized nations will hold a meeting in Egypt early next month. The meeting will be held in the Egyptian Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheik on May 3-4, Zebari said.


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