Saturday, June 30, 2007

'Iran-linked terrorists' killed in Baghdad raid: US

Sydney Morning Herald

US and Iraqi forces backed by helicopters killed 26 militants suspected of links to "Iranian terror networks" in raids in the Baghdad Shi'ite district of Sadr City on Saturday, the US military said.

Seventeen other suspects were detained.

"Coalition forces conducted two separate raids targeting suspected secret cell terrorists during predawn hours Saturday in Sadr City," the military said.

"It is believed that the suspected terrorists have close ties to Iranian terror networks and are responsible for facilitating the flow of lethal aid into Iraq," it added.

A medic at Al-Sadr hospital in Sadr City said that the hospital had received eight bodies and admitted 20 people wounded in the raids.

Residents were awakened before dawn to the sound of rockets slamming into buildings and machine-gun fire echoing off the concrete apartment blocks of the impoverished neighbourhood, an AFP correspondent said.

Dozens of gunmen ran through the streets, firing pistols and machine-guns at the US helicopters circling overhead, which responded with missiles. Several cars and homes were destroyed.

The US military confirmed that its forces came under heavy attack, with militants firing several rocket-propelled grenades. No US or Iraqi troops were wounded in the clashes.

Sadr City is a major bastion of support for anti-American Shi'ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, whose powerful Mahdi Army militia patrols the streets and provides welfare services to the neighbourhood.

The US military also accuses the militia of killing Sunni Arabs in the sectarian conflict gripping Iraq.

Today's raids are the latest in a series of operations targeting militants in the area that US commanders say receive weapons and support from neighbouring Iran......

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