2 Militants Killed Near Iraq Mosque After Attack On US

2 Militants Killed Near Iraq Mosque After Attack On US
April 21st, 2007  
Team Infidel

Topic: 2 Militants Killed Near Iraq Mosque After Attack On US

2 Militants Killed Near Iraq Mosque After Attack On US
Boston Globe
April 21, 2007
By Kim Gamel, Associated Press
BAGHDAD -- US helicopters pounded an area near a Shi'ite mosque with heavy machine-gun fire yesterday, killing two militants just before the start of weekly prayer services and outraging preachers loyal to radical Shi'ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr.
The attack took place as Sadr's militia is increasingly showing signs of impatience with a US-led push to secure Baghdad, raising fears it might resume its campaign of violence after more than two months of laying low.
The US military said American soldiers called for support and cordoned off the area after they were attacked by small-arms fire from the Ali al-Baiyaa mosque in a religiously mixed neighborhood in western Baghdad at about 9:45 a.m.
The military first denied reports by witnesses and Iraqi state TV that helicopters opened fire during the clash near the blue-domed mosque, but it issued a second statement hours later saying it had determined that the aircraft fired about 100 rounds of 30 mm ammunition.
After killing two militants, the soldiers searched nearby buildings, found chemicals believed to be bomb-making materials, and detained an Iraqi civilian, the military said. Iraqi soldiers searched the mosque, but found no weapons or suspects.
No coalition casualties were reported, and damage to the mosque was limited to several bullet holes. Witnesses said four people were killed and seven or eight wounded, but that could not be confirmed.
US Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates, meanwhile, said the Bush administration will take into account Iraq's political progress when deciding this summer whether to bring home some of the thousands of extra troops the United States has sent to curb violence .
His remarks during a visit to Baghdad reflected US efforts to strike a balance between reassuring the Iraqis of America's support and pressuring their leaders to show they are capable of bringing the country together and averting a full-scale civil war.
"Our commitment to Iraq is long-term, but it's not a commitment to having our young men and women patrolling Iraq's streets open-endedly," Gates told reporters.
Prime Minister Nouri al- Maliki, in a statement released by his office after meeting with Gates, said, "The main problem suffered by Iraq is political, not a security one." His office also said Maliki is optimistic Iraqis will overcome their sectarian, ethnic, and political differences.
In a sign of the difficulties in stemming the violence, the military said US soldiers are building a three-mile wall in Baghdad to protect a Sunni Arab area surrounded by Shi'ite neighborhoods.
When the wall is finished, the minority Sunni community of Azamiyah, on the eastern side of the Tigris River, will be gated, and traffic control points manned by Iraqi soldiers will be the only entries, the military said.
"Shi'ites are coming in and hitting Sunnis, and Sunnis are retaliating across the street," said Captain Scott McLearn, of the US 407th Brigade Support Battalion, which began the project April 10 and is working "almost nightly until the wall is complete," the statement said.
The fighting around the Ali al-Baiyaa mosque broke out just over an hour before traditional weekly prayer services were to begin, forcing worshipers from the mosque to attend other services.
Shi'ite clerics from Sadr's movement denounced the attack from their pulpits, four days after six Sadrist ministers quit the Cabinet to protest Maliki's refusal to back calls for a timetable for US withdrawal.
"Let the government see what the occupiers are doing to our people," Abdul Hadi al-Mohammadawi said in his sermon in the Shi'ite holy city of Kufa, 100 miles south of Baghdad. "This government does not represent our people. It represents the occupiers' will."
Sheik Suhail al-Iqabi also condemned the "criminal acts by occupiers" during his sermon in Baghdad's Sadr City Shi'ite enclave, a stronghold of Sadr's Mahdi Army militia.
Police reported finding 26 bodies with bullet wounds and showing signs of torture yesterday in the capital and on the banks of the Tigris River downstream. However, the nationwide death toll was down sharply from the previous day, with at least five people killed in attacks elsewhere in Iraq.
A suicide truck bombing killed one civilian and wounded eight US troops in Saqlawiyah, 45 miles west of Baghdad, the military said.
The US military announced the death of a Marine in a rocket attack Thursday night on a base south of the capital. Two others were wounded in the attack on a US base in Mahmoudiya, about 20 miles south of Baghdad, a statement said. At least 3,315 members of the US military have died since the Iraq war started , according to an Associated Press count.
Also yesterday, US forces killed eight other suspected insurgents and captured 41 in several raids across Iraq, the military said.

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