Archive for Saturday, September 2, 2006

Baghdad security operations to expand

September 2, 2006

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— Iraqi forces will expand their security operation into eastern Baghdad - including Shiite militia strongholds - the Defense Ministry said Friday, a day after a barrage of coordinated attacks across those areas killed 64 people and wounded 286.

Rescue crews pulled bodies from the rubble after Thursday night's violence, which police said included explosives planted in apartments, car bombs and several rocket and mortar attacks on mainly Shiite neighborhoods.

The bloodshed capped a violent week that saw hundreds of Iraqis killed, despite a massive security crackdown in the capital that has targeted some of Baghdad's most violent neighborhoods.

Authorities reported more violence Friday, with a mortar attack on an open-air market in Mahmoudiya, about 20 miles south of Baghdad, that killed three people and wounded 12, an Iraqi army official said.

Gunmen also fatally shot one policeman in each of two towns outside Baghdad, while police said they found the body of a Saddam Hussein-era intelligence officer who had been kidnapped and shot.

The U.S.-led military command said it conducted an airstrike Friday in Youssifiyah, 12 miles south of Baghdad, killing three suspected insurgents and possibly wounding bystanders.

It said two bombs were dropped by aircraft after coalition forces "conducting operations to disrupt al-Qaida in Iraq activities in the area" came under indirect mortar fire.

"Ground and aerial reports indicate bystanders may have been injured," the coalition said in a statement, adding that an assessment was being carried out to determine whether civilians had been wounded.

Thursday's attacks in Baghdad centered on neighborhoods controlled by Shiite militias, some of which Sunni Arabs accuse of running death squads.

Defense Ministry spokesman Muhammad Al-Askari said security forces planned to expand in a matter of days into an area of eastern Baghdad that includes the neighborhoods targeted Thursday. The move is part of "Operation Together Forward," a security crackdown that targets the capital's most violent districts in phases and has seen an extra 12,000 Iraqi and U.S. troops deployed in the capital.

Sadr City, a stronghold of firebrand Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, also would be included, al-Askari said.

The area witnessed repeated clashes in the past between U.S. troops and al-Sadr's Mahdi Army militia, though American forces now rarely venture into the area.

"No neighborhood is off limits," al-Askari said. "There's not a single neighborhood that's a red line for us. Any area that has terrorist activity, we will enter - there will be no stop sign."

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