At least 13 killed in US Baghdad strikes

United States air strikes killed at least 13 people and wounded 52 early on Sunday in the north-eastern Baghdad district of Sadr city, a stronghold for Shi’ite militants, police sources said.

The US military confirmed it had conducted early morning operations in Sadr city ”targeting criminals believed to be responsible for the kidnapping of coalition soldiers in November 2006 and May 2007”.

Two polices sources said the death toll from the US strikes was 13, including women and children, and that 52 had been wounded. One of the sources said the US raids came after a US vehicle was targeted by a roadside bomb.

The poor district is the main stronghold in Baghdad for the Mehdi Army, a Shi’ite militia loyal to cleric Moqtada al-Sadr and has witnessed frequent clashes between US forces and militants.

Three US soldiers were kidnapped south of Baghdad on May 12. The body of one of the soldiers was found later that month but the other two are classed as missing and captured.

A US army translator of Iraqi descent, was kidnapped on October 23 last year when he went to visit relatives, including his Iraqi wife, in Baghdad. His family said he was taken by the members of the Mehdi Army.

”I don’t yet have details on the number of terrorists killed, but I can say that we don’t have any evidence of any civilians killed or wounded,” said a spokesperson for US forces.

”Coalition forces only engage hostile threats and make every effort to protect innocent civilians.”

One of the police sources said the air strikes left several houses, shops and cars ablaze.

A health ministry source said 10 bodies and 42 wounded had been taken to Imam Ali hospital in Sadr city while another body and 25 wounded had been received at a second hospital there.

The US commander for Baghdad, Major General Joseph Fil, said in September that while security was getting better in some parts of Baghdad following a US crackdown, areas such as Sadr city were likely to continue to see higher violence. – Reuters

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