U.S. Troops, Shiite Militias Clash in Sadr City

In Baghdad, U.S. helicopter gunships blasted a suspected militant base in the Shiite stronghold of Sadr City. The raid came amid escalating clashes between U.S. troops and Shiite gunmen. A senior U.S. commander said this week that about two-thirds of American casualties in July were the result of Shiite attacks.

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MADELEINE BRAND, host:

From the studios of NPR West, this is DAY TO DAY. I'm Madeleine Brand.

ALEX CHADWICK, host:

And I'm Alex Chadwick.

Coming up, the raging debate over the Baghdad Diarist. The New Republic published brutal stories by a U.S. soldier about life in combat, but there are big questions about whether they are true.

BRAND: But first, in Baghdad a big raid today by U.S. forces in the Shiite neighborhood of Sadr City. The military says at least 30 Iraqi fighters were killed; a dozen others were detained. The strikes were aimed at a militia the U.S. says is targeting American troops and smuggling weapons in from Iran.

Joining us now is NPR's Jamie Tarabay, who's in Baghdad.

And Jamie, tell us more about today's operation.

JAMIE TARABAY: It isn't the first time that there's been a raid like this inside Sadr City. American forces, especially Special Forces, have been going and conducting raids, carrying out air strikes in Sadr City for the last few weeks and months. It's so hard to go in there. It's a very tightly - the buildings are very close together and what apparently we understand happened here was that American ground forces met with more resistance in the eastern corner of the slum than they expected and they called on air support.

And in the aftermath of this air attack, they say 30 suspected terrorists were killed and 12 others were detained. Meanwhile, people in Sadr City, including police and people who belong to the Sadr City local office, say that there were no 30 terrorists killed; there were actually nine civilians killed and among those were women and children, and there were also six people that were injured.

BRAND: And tell us more about this supposed link with Iran and the supposed weapons smuggling.

TARABAY: Well, this is something that the American military has been pushing for some time. They repeatedly assert that they have evidence that Iran is supplying, arming, funding, training Iraqi militants in Iran to attack American forces. And one of the particular weapons that they have been using the Americans call a explosively formed penetrator, which is a very sophisticated piece of weaponry that is able to pierce armed cars and the Humvees, which basically has resulted in more spectacular attacks, they're able to instead of just slightly damaging the vehicles actually destroy the vehicles and kill everyone inside. So they're much more deadly. The Americans say they see an increased use of them. And in fact in the last month, the American military says that attacks from Shiite militias, believed to be sponsored, in some way or another, by Iran, has accounted for about two-thirds of the U.S. troop deaths, especially in the last month.

BRAND: Jamie, meanwhile, though, there are some diplomatic conversations going on between the U.S. and Iran. What's going on there?

TARABAY: I think they're trying to do things politically as well as militarily. When the U.S. ambassador met with his Iranian counterpart a couple of weeks ago in Baghdad, it was the second of, you know, the groundbreaking meetings. You know, they're trying to pursue things on both tracks, both politically and militarily.

BRAND: Well, thank you very much. That's NPR's Jamie Tarabay in Baghdad.

TARABAY: Thank you.

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