Many Sunni neighborhoods in and around Baghdad were rocked Thursday night by dozens of loud explosions. They were being shelled by the U.S. military and its Iraqi partners, as they launched the biggest operation yet in their two-week-old security crackdown aimed at stopping widespread killing in Iraq's capital.
The military said it would send in ground troops to follow up on the artillery attacks on makeshift car bomb factories.
If the Americans hit their intended targets is unclear. As of Friday morning, there was scant news on the explosions and none on whether there were casualties. The targeted neighborhoods are unsafe for Westerners and many Iraqis.
But the shelling could cause political fallout given Sunni allegations that the security crackdown unfairly targets them. The U.S. military says it's Sunni groups who set most of the car bombs.
"I think that (with) this kind of amount of fire power deployed against the Sunni neighborhood, everyone is going to be looking," says analyst John Pike, from GlobalSecurity.org.
Meanwhile, an al-Qaida-linked Sunni group says it has kidnapped 18 Iraqi police officers and soldiers and posted what it says are their pictures on its Web site. The kidnappings north of Baghdad are said to be payback for last month's alleged rape of a Sunni woman by officers in the Shiite-dominated police force.
The Iraqi government denies the kidnappings took place.