RENEE MONTAGNE, host:
And in Iraq, deaths of civilians are a common occurrence. The toll today so far in Baghdad is at least two dozen people. That attack occurred in a busy commercial district.
Elsewhere in Baghdad, U.S. troops have begun a difficult phase of their three-week-old security crackdown. More than 600 American soldiers joined by Iraqi police and troops have entered the impoverished Shiite neighborhood of Sadr City. In the past such a show of force would have drawn fierce resistance, but so far Sadr City residents greeted the operation with calm.
NPR's Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson has more from Baghdad.
SORAYA SARHADDI NELSON: The U.S. military says its troops searched homes across Sadr City yesterday. They did so politely, knocking on doors, but their search did not find Shiite fighters or weapons caches. That's not surprising, given key figures of the Mehdi Army the Americans are looking for went into hiding weeks ago.
The militia's de facto leader, Shiite cleric Moqtada al Sadr, is also laying low. Nevertheless, officials hope the military presence in the Shiite enclave will end Sunni complaints that Americans are singling out their neighborhoods.
The Americans and Iraqis are expected to open a joint security station on the edge of the city today. It's one of 30 such planned bases aimed at improving ties with local leaders and increasing battlefield intelligence.
Sadr City residents reached by telephone say they hope the U.S. presence will restore calm and speed up reconstruction in their much-neglected neighborhood.
That's also what the government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki wants. The future of the Shiite-dominated government, which is aligned with al Sadr, hinges on stopping bombings and sectarian death squads.
Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson, NPR News, Baghdad.
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