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28 killed in Sadr City fighting

Ali Hussein, 2, pulled from the rubble of his family’s home in Sadr City in Baghdad on Tuesday, later died in hospital. Three buildings were destroyed when U.S. troops returned militants’ fire.

Associated Press

Ali Hussein, 2, pulled from the rubble of his family’s home in Sadr City in Baghdad on Tuesday, later died in hospital. Three buildings were destroyed when U.S. troops returned militants’ fire.

BAGHDAD — Dozens of fighters ambushed a U.S. patrol in Baghdad's main Shiite militia stronghold Tuesday, firing rocket-propelled grenades and machine gun bursts as the American push into Sadr City increasingly faces pockets of close urban combat.

U.S. forces struck back with 200-pound guided rockets that devastated at least three buildings in the densely packed district that serves as the Baghdad base for the powerful Mahdi Army militia.

Such street battles — in tight confines and amid frightened civilians — are increasingly becoming a hallmark of the drive into Sadr City.

The U.S. military said 28 militiamen were killed and six American soldiers were wounded as the U.S. patrol pulled back. Local hospital officials said dozens of civilians were killed or wounded.

Clashes have intensified in Sadr City since the Mahdi Army leader — the anti-American cleric Muqtada al-Sadr — reiterated his threat of an all-out war against U.S.-led forces last week. U.S. troops, meanwhile, find themselves increasingly drawn into the fight opened by the Iraqi government to cripple the power of Shiite militias.

Officials at two local hospitals said about 25 people died and several dozen were wounded, most of them civilians. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to release the information.

U.S. officials said all precautions are taken to prevent civilian casualties, but blamed the militiamen for taking cover among their neighbors and families.

"The enemy continues to show little regard for innocent civilians, as they fire their weapons from within houses, alleyways and rooftops upon our soldiers," said Col. Allen Batschelet, chief of staff for the 4th Infantry Division in Baghdad.

AP Television News footage showed children running for cover behind blast walls amid gunshots. Men helped carry several blood-soaked injured people onto stretchers to a local emergency hospital.

Meanwhile, two U.S. soldiers were killed in northwestern Baghdad on Tuesday, the military said. One died when his vehicle was struck by an improvised explosive device. The other died of wounds sustained when he was struck by small-arms fire, the military said. Other details were not immediately available.

Bush holds firm

on war funds bill

President Bush and Democrats controlling Congress continued on course toward a veto confrontation Tuesday as Bush said he would veto any attempt to add a popular veteran benefits bill to his $108-billion war funding request. Democrats are expected to add extended unemployment benefits and new education funding for post-Sept. 11 veterans to the war funding bill, along with a few other add-ons. Bush warned, "… the $108-billion is $108-billion."

Hussein aide on trial: An Iraqi court on Tuesday began hearing the case against Tariq Aziz, who is accused of ordering the execution of dozens of merchants for profiteering. Aziz, 72, a former deputy prime minister under Saddam Hussein, is one of eight defendants in the case. If convicted, they could be sentenced to death. Other defendants include Hussein's half brother Watban Ibrahim al-Hassan and cousin Ali Hassan al-Majid, who is also known as "Chemical Ali." The judge adjourned the trial until May 20 citing the absence of Majid, who is under medical care at an American detention facility after a heart attack earlier this month.

Times wires

28 killed in Sadr City fighting 04/29/08 [Last modified: Thursday, October 28, 2010 1:27pm]
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