BAGHDAD — The U.S. military said Monday that it had killed 45 militants in two days of fierce fighting in northeast Baghdad, signaling that some Shiite Muslim extremists are defying hardline Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr's call for a cease-fire against Iraqi troops.
Four U.S. soldiers also were killed Monday in rocket or mortar attacks in Baghdad, the military said.
The battles between militants and U.S. and Iraqi security forces in and around the Shiite slum of Sadr City were the bloodiest in weeks, and residents said many of the casualties were civilians. The clashes were accompanied by a series of mortar attacks launched from Sadr City into the heavily fortified Green Zone, which houses the U.S. Embassy and Iraqi government buildings.
The militants appeared to use the cover of a dust storm that blew into Baghdad on Sunday and shrouded the city in a sandy, suffocating haze into Monday morning. The storm grounded American military aircraft for several hours and prevented aerial patrols of militant hideouts, U.S. officials said.
In the deadliest incident, the U.S. military said, a large group of fighters attacked an Iraqi security checkpoint in northeast Baghdad on Sunday evening, peppering the installation with small-arms fire. U.S. forces supporting the checkpoint rolled in with Abrams tanks and fired back, killing 22 of the attackers.
On Monday, U.S. troops fired tank rounds and a missile at a group of armed attackers, killing seven of them, the military said. Sixteen more militants were killed in other firefights Sunday.