Troops Raid Sadr City; Maliki Disavows Timeline 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.
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Troops Raid Sadr City; Maliki Disavows Timeline

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Troops Raid Sadr City; Maliki Disavows Timeline

Troops Raid Sadr City; Maliki Disavows Timeline

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MELISSA BLOCK, host:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Melissa Block.

ROBERT SIEGEL, host:

And I'm Robert Siegel.

Today the U.S. military and Iraqi Special Forces conducted a raid into a Shiite district of Baghdad that is a bastion of support for radical cleric Moqtada al-Sadr. The U.S. military says the operation in Sadr City was aimed at the capture of the reputed leader of a death squad and was authorized by the Iraqi government. Iraq's prime minister angrily denied that.

Iraq was also the key topic at a White House news conference this morning. President Bush offered one of his most sober assessments to date. We'll hear a report on that and some Democratic reaction in a few minutes.

First, NPR's Jamie Tarabay has a report from Baghdad.

JAMIE TARABAY: 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. Ten men were killed, two of the reportedly members of Moqtada al-Sadr's militia. Sadr is a key political ally of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, who complained at a news conference today that he wasn't consulted about the raid.

Prime Minister NOURI AL-MALIKI (Iraq): (Through Translator) What happened in Sadr City is one of those things that needs to be discussed with the coalition forces. We'll ask for clarification and coordinate with them in the future to ensure such a thing isn't repeated without our authorization.

TARABAY: 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 reign 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.

Prime Minister AL-MALIKI: (Through Translator) Others have the right to direct their politics in their own way, but this is a government of the people and no one has the right to impose a timetable on it.

TARABAY: Maliki blames much of the violence on former members of Saddam Hussein's Baath Party and foreigners. He did say that only state authorized security forces are allowed to carry weapons, and only the government can punish those who break the law.

Prime Minister AL-MALIKI: (Through Translator) I'm optimistic that people will understand that having different armed militias while there is a government security force affects the stability of the state and its unity.

TARABAY: Maliki's hesitation to confront militias like Sadr's has frustrated U.S. officials here. Last week Maliki ordered the release of the top aide to Sadr, who'd been detained by U.S. forces on suspicion of running death squads in a district of Baghdad.

General George Casey, the top U.S. military commander in Iraq, said yesterday he'd agree to release the man because he hadn't targeted coalition forces.

General GEORGE CASEY (U.S. Army): After checking to make sure we had no information that he had anything to do with attacking coalition forces, I made the call in support of the prime minister and my assessment was operational risk was far exceeded by potential strategic payoff.

TARABAY: The U.S. military said 10 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.

Jamie Tarabay, NPR News, Baghdad.

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