U.S. troops kill up to 49 in Baghdad’s Sadr City

By Xinhua

Baghdad : The U.S. military said that its troops have killed up to 49 “criminals” in a raid on Baghdad’s eastern neighborhood of Sadr City early on Sunday.

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“Collation forces estimate that 49 criminals were killed in three separate engagements during this operation,” the U.S. military said in a statement.

An Iraqi Interior Ministry source told Xinhua earlier that 13 people, including one woman and two children, were killed, along with more than 52 people injured.

The U.S. military said no evidence had been found civilian casualties occurred in the trade of fire.

Earlier, the military said that six suspected militants were killed during the raid that targeted a Special Groups member specializing in kidnapping operations.

The Special Groups are Shiite militia extremists funded, trained and armed by external sources, specifically by Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps Quds Force operatives, according to the U.S. military.

The interior ministry source said the militants were believed to be members of the Mahdi Army, a militia loyal to radical Shiitecleric Moqtada al-Sadr.

Based on intelligence reports, the targeted individual “is a well-known cell leader and has previously sought funding from Iran to carry out high profile kidnappings,” the U.S. military said, without making clear weather the marked man had been arrested or killed.

A U.S. military spokesman said in an earlier statement that the cell leader was believed to be behind kidnappings of coalition force soldiers, including one in May this year.

A U.S. patrol was ambushed on May 12 in south of Baghdad. Four soldiers and an Iraqi translator were killed, and three soldiers were missing. The body of one was found later that month but the other two remain unknown.

During the house to house searches in the area on Sunday, the troops encountered attacks from militiamen armed with machine guns and rocket propelled grenades from nearby structures, according to the statement.

The U.S. troops fired back and called in aerial support, killing 39 militants, it said.

While leaving the targeted area, the troops clashed again with another group of militants after they were attacked by a roadside bomb followed with gunfire, killing 10 more other militants, it added.

Sadr City is a stronghold of Mahdi Army. Sadr offered a six-month freeze of armed activities for his militia at the end of August.