Video: Iraq reality check

updated 9/23/2004 8:52:51 PM ET 2004-09-24T00:52:51

For a second day, U.S. forces battled Shiite militiamen in the Baghdad slum of Sadr City, with U.S. warplanes firing on insurgents. Hospital officials said at least one person was killed and 12 were wounded, many of them children.

The U.S. military said it launched an operation overnight to “disband and disarm” militia loyal to the rebel Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr and open way for reconstruction projects in the city.

Separately, there was an explosion in Baghdad Thursday evening, though its cause was not immediately known. The military announced that a U.S.  Marine was killed the day before in Anbar province, west of Baghdad.

Pressure on al-Sadr
U.S. warplanes and helicopters roared overhead in Sadr City and residents said loud explosions could be heard for hours. Militia fighters returned fire with machine guns.

An American Bradley fighting vehicle was hit by a rocket-propelled grenade and caught fire, according to a U.S.  military report. It was not clear if there were any casualties.

The aim of the operation, dubbed “Iron Fist 2,” is to maintain pressure on al-Sadr by seizing weapons caches and detaining or killing his lieutenants, said Maj. Bill Williams, an acting battalion commander in the 1st Cavalry Division.

The Americans believe that Sadr has been increasing his authority in Sadr City after last months agreement to stop hostilities between his followers and U.S. troops, using the lull in fighting to improve his position.

“The main problem is that he has the militia,” Williams said. “Our goal is to pressure him to disband and disarm.”

The military says that the insurgents have laid down booby traps throughout Sadr City and have repeatedly fired mortars toward an American base on its outskirts.

Hospital officials said at least 10 people were killed and more than 90 injured in Wednesday’s clashes, but U.S. military officers monitoring the fighting put the Iraqi death toll that day at around 40. There was no word on U.S. casualties.

“The intent is to provide security for the people of Thawra so we can get back to the business of reconstruction,” said 1st Cavalry Division commanding general Maj. Gen. Peter Chiarelli in a Wednesday statement. Thawra is an old name for Sadr City. The district is now named for Muqtada al-Sadr’s father, a revered cleric killed under Saddam Hussein’s regime.

Fighting in the north
Meanwhile, in the northeastern city of Mosul, gunmen killed a senior official of Iraq’s North Oil Co. on Thursday. Sana Toma Sulaiman, the deputy director of the company’s oil products department in Nineveh province, was shot dead as he headed to work, said Hazim Jallawi, a spokesman for the Nineveh governor’s office.

On Wednesday night, renewed fighting flared in Samarra, north of Baghdad, where U.S. forces had earlier claimed success against militants waging a 17-month insurgency, police said.

At least one child was killed and five people were wounded in fighting, said police Maj. Raed Saadoun Ahmad.

It was the first significant attack in Samarra since U.S. troops moved back into the city earlier this month, for the first time since May 30 as part of a peace deal brokered by tribal leaders.

Three U.S. Army soldiers were killed in separate incidents in northern Iraq on Wednesday, officials said.

More troops pondered
Violence has been escalating and is expected to intensify in the run-up to elections, scheduled for January.

A top U.S. general said Pentagon officials were not ruling out that more U.S. troops will be needed to secure January’s elections.

“I think we will need more troops than we currently have,” Gen. John Abizaid, commander of U.S. troops in the region, said Wednesday. But, he said, Pentagon officials believe the need will be filled by Iraqis or international forces.

When asked about Abizaid’s comment, President Bush said Abizaid was in his office Thursday morning and did not mention the need for more troops. “But if he were to say that, I’d listen to him,” Bush said.

Meanwhile, Pakistan rebuffed a request from the United States and Iraq's interim government its troops to forces to help restore stability in Iraq.

"As far as Pakistan is concerned, our domestic environment is not conducive. It continues to be not conducive. We cannot be seen as an extension of the present forces there," Musharraf told a news conference at the United Nations.

Iraqi interim Prime Minister Iyad Allawi said on Tuesday he had pressed Musharraf to contribute troops to the U.S.-led Multinational Force fighting an insurgency in his country.

Kidnapping nightmare
As fighting flared, a gruesome hostage crisis played out in Baghdad. The third of three hostages held by a group calling itself Tawhid and Jihad begged for his life on a videotape made available on the Internet on Thursday.

Kenneth Bigley, 62, was kidnapped a week earlier by the group, along with two Americans, by militants demanding that the United States and its allies release all female Muslim prisoners.

The United States says it will not negotiate with kidnappers.

The two Americans, Eugene Armstrong and Jack Hensley were beheaded — their slayings shown on grisly videos posted on the Internet — and their bodies dumped not far from their Baghdad residence.

Suicide bombing kills 6, injures 54
In the latest in a series of car bombings, a suicide attacker on Wednesday claimed the lives of six Iraqi civilians and wounded 54 others.

Authorities said the bombing occurred outside a photocopy shop in western Baghdad where Iraqi National Guard applicants were readying their papers before heading to a nearby recruiting center.

Bloodied bodies, shattered glass and debris littered the street in the commercial neighborhood of Al-Jamiyah after the first explosion.

At least 13 vehicles were wrecked and the engine of the suicide car was hurled about 150 feet away.

Another car bomb later shook the Mansour district of Baghdad after U.S. troops were seen moving through the area and thick black smoke could be seen rising from the area, police and witnesses said. Police said they believed there were casualties but had no details.

Push for elections
Meanwhile, Iraq’s most powerful Shiite cleric, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, said that increasing violence must not be used as a pretext for delaying elections scheduled for late January.

Al-Sistani “stresses the necessity of holding elections on time and the necessity of preparing the atmosphere ... under international supervision to be credible and transparent,” Hamed al-Khafaf, an aide to the ayatollah, said Thursday in a telephone interview from Beirut.

Iraq’s Shiite majority is eager to hold elections since they expect to dominate whatever government emerges. U.N. chief Kofi Annan, however, has questioned whether elections can take place if violence does not ease.

© 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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