msnbc.com news services
updated 2/3/2006 10:00:09 AM ET 2006-02-03T15:00:09

Two car bombs at a market and a petrol station in Baghdad killed at least 10 people and wounded 55 on Thursday, police sources said. Police had earlier put the death toll at five, but hospital sources said they expected the number of casualties to rise.

Earlier in the day, a U.S. helicopter fired rockets into a crowded Shiite neighborhood of eastern Baghdad, killing a young woman, after the aircraft was fired on, the U.S. command said. The military also said five U.S. troops died in separate attacks.

A roadside bomb blast killed three U.S. soldiers south of Baghdad on Wednesday, while a fourth soldier died the same day from wounds sustained in a small-arms fire attack in the capital’s southwest, the military said. A U.S. Marine was fatally wounded Wednesday during combat near the western city of Fallujah.

The deaths were the first among U.S. personnel since Jan. 28 and took the total of U.S. military fatalities to 2,247 since the war began in 2003, according to an Associated Press count.

Also Thursday, two car bombs wounded at least 28 people in Baghdad, police sources said. The sources said one exploded in a market and the other in a petrol station, Reuters reported.

'Known terrorist'
Thursday’s early morning helicopter attack in the vast eastern Baghdad area of Sadr City damaged several houses and cars, and both residents and Shiite politicians condemned the U.S. attack as reckless and provocative.

The U.S. military said the exchange of fire took place at about 1 a.m. as its troops were pursuing a “known terrorist associated with Ansar al-Sunnah,” a Sunni militant group that has claimed responsibility for suicide attacks and beheadings.

“As troops were leaving the area in a U.S. military helicopter, men on a nearby rooftop began firing at the aircraft,” said military spokesman Sgt. Stacy Simon. “The helicopter returned fire with guns and rockets.”

The military had no details on casualties, but Sadr City resident Abdul-Hussein Shanoof said his 20-year-old daughter, Ikhlas Abdul-Hussein, was killed. Shanoof was also wounded, along with another woman and a 2-year-old child.

Footage showed Shanoof’s house with a large hole blasted through his roof and rubble scattered inside.

“At night, the aircraft bombed this and that house. One girl died. The aircraft remained bombing us until morning,” a Sadr City resident, who declined to identify himself, told AP Television News.

U.S. soldiers detained two unidentified people before the attack inside Sadr City, the power base of radical anti-U.S. Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr. The area was the scene of fierce clashes between Shiite militiamen and American forces in 2004 through to early 2005.

But American forces have been recently holding up the neighborhood as a model of improving relations between the U.S. military and the Iraqi community.

Transport Minister Salam al-Maliki, an al-Sadr supporter, condemned the U.S. attack and demanded compensation for victims.

“These military operations aim at weakening the supporters of the Sadrist movement, are considered provocative and represent a clear violation against the security situation in the country,” al-Maliki told The Associated Press in the southern city of Basra.

Bound bodies found
Meantime, a shepherd found the partially buried bodies of 16 men in an open area on the outskirts of the Sadr City neighborhood on Thursday, each of whom had been shot multiple times, bound and blindfolded, police said.

The shepherd first spotted the head of one of the victims poking out from the soil, said Lt. Mohammed Ali.

Ali said as the shepherd uncovered the soil from the first victim, he proceeded to find another 15, all appearing to be aged between 30-40 years, wearing civilian clothes and without identity documents. Police believe the bodies were dumped at least one week ago.

"Their hands were tied, they were blindfolded and each had been shot in different parts of their bodies," Ali said. The grisly discovery was the latest in a wave of apparent tit-for-tat sectarian-related violence targeting Iraq's dominant Shiites and minority Sunni Arabs, who were prominent until their patron Saddam Hussein was toppled in the 2003 U.S.-led invasion of Iraq.

In Baghdad, another Sadr supporter, Shiite lawmaker Falah Hassan Shanshal, accused the U.S. of trying to “draw the Sadr movement into a new fight to affect our participation in the political process.”

“The occupation is trying to shake the United Iraqi Alliance after their successful election results,” said lawmaker Bahaa al-din al-Araji, another al-Sadr supporter and senior member of the alliance, the major Shiite bloc that fared best in the Dec. 15 parliamentary election.

Shiites dominate the outgoing government and are sure to play the major role in the next one since a coalition of religious Shiite parties won the largest bloc of seats.

Saddam absent...again
The attack came as neither Saddam Hussein nor any of his seven co-defendants attended Thursday’s session of the trial to protest the new chief judge, Raouf Abdel-Rahman. The eight are being accused of involvement in the 1982 killings of more than 140 Shiite Muslims in Dujail, north of Baghdad. The session lasted just under two hours and was adjourned until Feb. 13.

Saddam’s defense team wants Abdel-Rahman to step down after accusing him of having a “personal feud” with the former leader because the judge was born in Halabja, a Kurdish village hit by a poison gas attack allegedly ordered by Saddam in 1988. Some 5,000 Kurds were killed, including several of Abdel-Rahman’s relatives.

U.S. and Iraqi authorities had hoped the trial would proceed smoothly and lead to a calming of Iraq’s rampant insurgency.

But the violence continued Thursday with two roadside bombs targeting an American patrol and damaging two Humvees in Tarmiyah, 30 miles north of Baghdad, said police Lt. Ali al-Bayati. The military said there were no U.S. casualties.

The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.

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