US military defends Baghdad raid slammed by PM

August 9th, 2006  
Team Infidel

Topic: US military defends Baghdad raid slammed by PM

Media: AFP
Byline: n/a
Date: 9 August 2006

BAGHDAD, Aug 9, 2006 (AFP) - The US military on Wednesday defended itself
against criticism by Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki of a raid on a
crowded Baghdad suburb which culminated in a deadly air strike.

The army had said the Sunday night assault by Iraqi troops and US advisers
was aimed at arresting the head of a suspected kidnap-and-torture cell.

But Maliki called it "unjustified" and said he had not approved it.

Major General William Caldwell told reporters that Iraqi commanders had
taken the lead in launching the operation, with the support of US advisers,
and that they shared Maliki's concern to avoid or minimise civilian

Medics told AFP that three civilians were killed during the two-hour clash,
which pitched Shiite militiamen against the security forces in the
impoverished streets of the teeming Sadr City neighbourhood of east Baghdad.

"There's no question that the prime minister is in charge of this country.
We're here as the guests of the Iraqi government and the Iraqi people,"
Caldwell, the coalition forces' spokesman, said.

He said Maliki was briefed regularly, but that Iraqi and coalition forces
carry out more than 400 operations per week and that the prime minister did
not always have detailed knowledge of all of them.

"These are decisions made by local commanders making decisions based on
local intelligence that is often very fleeting," Caldwell said.

"The intent was to go in and apprehend the individual in question and then
come out. The Iraqis were fired upon and used escalation of force. They had
to use some air support in order to extract themselves safely," he added.

"The prime minister was very right to say what he did, and we feel the same
way too," Caldwell said, denying that Maliki's comments indicated a rift
between the government and its US ally.

Iraqi and US forces are engaged in a campaign to halt a wave of sectarian
violence by identifying and taking on the death squads which kidnap, torture
and kill scores of Baghdadis every week.

Sunday night's assault triggered controversy when it degenerated into a
clash with the Mehdi Army militia of radical cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, whose
movement is a powerful member of Maliki's ruling coalition.

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