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U.S., Iraqi troops raid Shiite slum in Baghdad

U.S. and Iraqi troops raided Baghdad's largest Shiite slum early Thursday and arrested 16 people, American and Iraqi officials and witnesses said. The U.S. military said one of the detainees later died.
/ Source: The Associated Press

U.S. and Iraqi troops raided Baghdad's largest Shiite slum early Thursday and arrested 16 people, American and Iraqi officials and witnesses said. The U.S. military said one of the detainees later died.

The military also announced the death of a U.S. soldier killed by a roadside bomb a day earlier in western Baghdad. At least 3,950 members of the U.S. military have died since the beginning of the Iraq war in March 2003, according to an Associated Press count.

In Sadr City, the U.S. said it was targeting "criminal elements" responsible for mortar and bomb attacks on U.S. and Iraqi troops.

U.S. Navy Cmdr. Scott Rye, a military spokesman, said a man who fired on the troops died after he was shot and taken into custody. He said an Iraqi woman also was shot but was treated on the site and released.

Local police said two women and an elderly man also were wounded and taken to the hospital, where one of them died. Rye said the military had no information about two women or an elderly man being wounded in the operation.

Police and residents said American soldiers in Humvees backed by helicopters sealed off a block of the neighborhood and raided four houses. The front door lock on one of the houses was shattered by gunfire, and 22-year-old Arkan Abid Ali was shot in the chest and wounded, witnesses said.

Diaa Shakir, 20, said he heard gunfire coming from inside houses that U.S. soldiers had entered as he watched the operation from the window of his home nearby.

Ali was one of 16 Iraqis, including three teenage boys, detained by U.S. forces, an Iraqi police officer said, speaking on condition of anonymity because he wasn't authorized to release the information.

U.S. raids area known for poor, insurgents  
Sadr City is home to about 2.5 million of the Iraqi capital's poorest residents. Overwhelmingly Shiite, the neighborhood has also been a base for the Mahdi Army loyal to radical cleric Muqtada al-Sadr. The firebrand figure called a cease-fire for the militia in August, but some rogue members are believed to have ignored the order. The area has been the frequent site of U.S. raids over the past several months.

Al-Sadr's office in the Shiite holy city of Najaf released a statement Thursday threatening to expel militiamen who break the cease-fire.

"We have nothing to do with anyone from the Mahdi Army who violates the cease-fire with armed activities. They will be considered out of the organization," the statement said. "You all must know that our goal is independence."

Al-Sadr's cease-fire order is credited along with last summer's arrival of about 30,000 additional U.S. troops with helping tamp down violence in Baghdad. U.S. and Iraqi officials are hopeful that the cleric will continue to order restraint among his men.

The U.S. military also announced three other raids, including an operation Wednesday that killed five suspected insurgents near the village of Khalis north of Baghdad.

Another suspect was arrested the same day along with two large weapons caches in western Baghdad, the military said. More than 100 mortar rounds and 66 rocket-propelled grenade launchers were seized, it said.

U.S. troops also captured a former lieutenant colonel in the Iraqi Army on Monday in southern Baghdad, the military said. The man was suspected of using money taken from government contracts to finance weapons trafficking.

On Thursday, gunmen stormed a house northeast of Baghdad, separated out the women and children inside and killed three brothers — all members of a U.S.-backed neighborhood watch group, police said.

The attack happened in the Muradiyah area near Baqouba, about 35 miles northeast of the capital. Such groups — comprised mostly of Sunni tribesman partnering with the Americans to oust al-Qaida from their hometowns — have become frequent targets recently because of their alliance with U.S. and Iraqi forces.

The gunmen planted explosives in the house and blew it up before leaving, police said. U.S. military officials had no immediate comment on the incident.

Meanwhile south of Baghdad, a truckload of weapons, ammunition and explosives were seized at an Iraqi police checkpoint at the entrance to the Shiite holy city of Karbala, police said. The contraband was hidden in the back of a truck carrying baking flour, they said.

Three mortar tubes, four rocket launchers and several bars of dynamite were discovered when the truck was halted about 50 miles south of the capital.