- The Washington Times - Wednesday, April 30, 2008

BAGHDAD — The Baghdad stronghold of anti-American cleric Muqtada al-Sadr exploded with violence for the third consecutive day, with militants taking up positions on rooftops and alleys to attack U.S. troops.

Lt. Col. Steve Stover said U.S. forces targeted gunmen in the area with rockets fired from a guided multiple-launch rocket system, which fires high-explosive warheads weighing 200 pounds. He said 28 extremists were killed.

“We have every right to defend ourselves,” Col. Stover, a spokesman for the U.S. military, told the Associated Press. “The problem is they’re using houses, rooftops and alleyways [as cover].”

Six Americans were wounded in yesterday’s battles.

The attack took place along a road through the Shi’ite slum of Sadr City, where U.S. and Iraqi troops are attempting to build a concrete barrier.

The barrier is part of a strategy to push militants farther north, where rockets and mortars are out of range of the Green Zone in central Baghdad.

In another attack, Shi’ite militants hit a U.S. military station in southern Sadr City with explosive canisters, badly damaging a tactical operations center and injuring 15 troops.

None of the 15 suffered life-threatening injuries, said Maj. Michael Humphreys, spokesman for the 3rd Brigade Combat Team, who was at the facility at the time of the attack. The most serious injury, he said, was a broken leg.

Maj. Humphreys, speaking by telephone from Joint Security Station (JSS) Sadr City, said the attack was conducted about 1:20 p.m. Monday, when most U.S. troops and Iraqi police with whom they share the base were out on patrol and on other duties away from the two-story building.

“We had some bad guys draw up in a truck behind the JSS with eight [rocket] launching rails on the back of it,” he said. “They launched acety-lenelike canisters from them and then took off.”

Five canisters were lobbed over the back wall of the JSS. Four detonated. One blew out the wall on the southwest side of the station’s main building where U.S. forces had located their tactical operations center. Another destroyed a billeting area where, had it occurred at night, soldiers would have been sleeping.

One canister that was lobbed over the wall failed to explode. Three others were found in the vehicle after the attack.

JSS Sadr City is located near the Tharwa district of southern Sadr City, an area where U.S. and Iraqi forces are determined to maintain security.

The militants ended a week of relative calm on Sunday, using cover from a sandstorm in the area to bombard the Green Zone with rockets and mortars. Fighting has continued ever since.

Sheik al-Sadr, thought to be in a seminary in Iran, declared a cease-fire between his Mahdi Army militia and U.S. and Iraqi security forces in August. That truce ended in late March, however, when Iraq’s Shi’ite prime minister, Nouri al-Maliki, sent troops into the southern port city of Basra to crack down on Shi’ite militias, including Mahdi Army members and criminal gangs riding roughshod over it.

This article is based in part on wire service reports.

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