BAGHDAD — The U.S. military fired guided missiles into the heart of Baghdad's teeming Sadr City slum on Saturday, leveling a building 55 yards away from a hospital and wounding nearly two dozen people.
Separately, the U.S. military said late Saturday that four Marines were killed on Thursday by a roadside bomb in Anbar province and that a U.S. soldier died when a roadside bomb struck the soldier's vehicle in eastern Baghdad on Friday.
Saturday's strike, made from a ground launcher, took out a militant "command-control center," the U.S. military said. The center was located in the heart of the 8-square-mile neighborhood that is home to about 2.5-million people.
Iraqi officials said at least 23 people were wounded, though none of them were patients in the hospital. The U.S. military blamed the militants for using Iraqi civilians as human shields.
"This is a circumstance where these criminal groups are operating directly out of civilian neighborhoods," military spokeswoman Spc. Megan Burmeister told the Associated Press by e-mail.
Dr. Ali Bustan al-Fartusee, director general of Baghdad's health directorate, told the AP that 23 civilians were wounded in the strike.
He said no patients in the hospital were hurt but that some of the wounded included civilians outside on their way to visit patients in the hospital. He also said 17 ambulances were damaged or destroyed.
Local reporters said Shiite extremists are known to have operated in a building next to the hospital.
Georgians killed: Georgian Defense Ministry spokesman Giga Tatishvili said two service members from the former Soviet republic were killed and one wounded south of Baghdad on Friday when a parked car bomb exploded. The deaths were the first combat fatalities that the nation's military has suffered in Iraq, where it has had a presence since August 2003.