Iraqi troops raid part of Sadr City, the Baghdad stronghold of radical Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr. The U.S. military, which provided support in the mission, says the raid targeted the leader of a Shiite death squad. Iraq's prime minister angrily denied approving the raid.
The U.S. military says Iraqi Army forces came under fire during the raid and requested support from U.S. aircraft, which fired into the district. Four men were killed, two of them reportedly members of Sadr's militia. Sadr is a key political ally of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, who complained at a news conference that he wasn't consulted about the raid.
"What happened in Sadr City is one of the things that needs to be discussed with the coalition forces," Maliki said. "We will ask for clarification and coordinate with them in the future, to ensure such a thing isn't repeated without our authorization."
Maliki also objected to comments made a day earlier by the top American military and diplomatic officials in Iraq. They said the Iraqi government had agreed to develop a timeline to restore security and rein in sectarian militias.
Maliki told reporters the statements were part of what he called American propaganda designed for an American audience in the run-up to the U.S. midterm elections in November.
Maliki blamed much of the violence on former members of Saddam Hussein's Baath Party and foreigners. He said that only state-authorized security forces are allowed to carry weapons, and only the government can punish those who break the law.
Maliki's hesitation to confront militias like Sadr's has frustrated U.S. officials here. Last week, Maliki ordered the release of a top aide to Sadr who had been detained by U.S. forces on suspicion of running death squads in a district of Baghdad.
Gen. George Casey, the top U.S. military commander in Iraq, said Tuesday that he agreed to release the man because he hadn't targeted coalition forces.
"After checking to make sure we had no information that he had anything to do with attacking coalition forces," Casey said, "I made the call in support of the prime minister."
The U.S. military said 13 people were detained in the overnight raid into Sadr City, but the death-squad leader who was the target of the operation was not among them.