Apache misses target, two US soldiers, three civilians wounded


Baghdad : Two US soldiers and three civilians were wounded when an Apache helicopter accidentally destroyed one of US armored vehicles in eastern Baghdad, US military said on Sunday.

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The military said the incident occurred Saturday afternoon, when the chopper spotted a group of four militants.

The military said in a statement that the helicopter missed its target and struck a US armored vehicle.

Iraqi police confirmed that a Humvee was set ablaze in the Mashtal area of eastern Baghdad.

The US military said an American soldier was killed in a blast Saturday morning in northwestern Baghdad but did not say whether the militia were responsible.

The death raised to at least 19 the number of American troopers killed in Iraq since last Sunday.

Al-Sadr urged his fighters not to target fellow Iraqis. He also blamed the Americans and their Iraqi allies for the assassination Friday of one of his top aides, Riyadh al-Nouri, director of his office in the holy city of Najaf.

Gunmen ambushed al-Nouri as he was returning home from Friday prayers, and al-Sadr followers shouted anti-American slogans at his funeral in Najaf.

There were signs that al-Sadr was trying to calm his followers to avoid all-out war with the Americans. Al-Sadr is also under pressure from Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki to disband the Mahdi Army or face a ban from politics.

Sadrist officials said that they had received orders from their headquarters in Najaf to avoid confrontations with Iraqi and US forces.

The officials said the Sadrist leadership was concerned that the ongoing clashes were turning into a war of attrition that was weakening the movement and undermining support within its Shia power base.

In a move to bolster its image among Sadr City residents, the government Saturday lifted a ban on entering and leaving the district, home to some 2.5 million people.

Police announced that one of the entrances had been opened to motor traffic.

In Mosul, a suicide bomber rammed his vehicle Saturday into a US Bradley Fighting Vehicle, detonating a nearby fuel truck. No American soldiers were killed or injured, but one Iraqi child died and four people were wounded, US officials said.

US and Iraqi troops killed five al-Qaeda militia and captured two in a joint air assault in Salahuddin province north of Baghdad.

Elsewhere, Iraqi soldiers acting on tips from detained Shia militiamen found 14 bodies that had been buried in a field south of Baghdad.

It was the second discovery this week of mass graves in the area, raising to 45 the number of bodies located there.

Recent clashes in the Baghdad area have severely strained a unilateral truce which al-Sadr imposed on the Mahdi Army last August.

He ordered the stand down to allow time to reorganize the force and purge criminal factions that had tarnished the image of his movement.

US officials have acknowledged that al-Sadr’s truce, along with the Sunni Arab revolt against al-Qaeda, had played a major role in reducing American and Iraqi deaths, especially in the Baghdad area.

Fighting in Baghdad broke out following last month’s ill-prepared Iraqi government offensive against militias and criminal gangs in the southern city of Basra.