2 US Troops Killed, 21 Wounded; 37 Iraqis Killed in Baghdad Clashes;

According to BBC television, AFP is reporting that Mahdi Army militiamen killed 2 US troops in northern Baghdad on Wednesday morning. US Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates admitted on Tuesday that the reduction in US troop casualties in recent months had ended in the past few weeks, because of the fighting in Sadr City in the capital. Over 40 US troops have been killed in April. Gates also brandished a second aircraft carrier in the Persian Gulf at Iran, which the US accuses of supplying the Mahdi Army with arms that are used against US troops. Recent US press reporting in the New York Times and elsewhere has raised questions about the allegation. Sadr spokesman Salah al-Obeidi (al-Ubaydi) in Najaf bitterly attacked Iran, accusing it of seeking to share with the US in influence over Iraq. He pointed to the Iranian’s regime’s failure to condemn the long-term mutual security agreement being crafted by the Bush administration and the al-Maliki government. Al-Obeidi’s angry denunciation suggests that Iran is backing PM Nuri al-Maliki and his current chief ally, the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq led by Abdul Aziz al-Hakim against the Sadr Movement of Muqtada al-Sadr.

The sandstorm continued in Baghdad on Tuesday, and so did the fierce fighting between the US military and the Shiite Mahdi Army (paramilitary of the Sadr Movement), leaving 37 dead and 6 US soldiers wounded. The dead were said to include 9 civilians, including 3 women and a child. The sandstorm was an essential context for the fighting, since it prevented the US from deploying helicopter gunships and so left a ground patrol vulnerable to militia attack. The Mahdi Army was apparently attempting to prevent further US wall-building in the Shiite slum. Snipers also shot at US troops from rooftops. It is hard to believe that such complex assaults (involving a combination of ambush, small arms, and roadside bombs) are still going on after 5 years of US military occupation of the capital. AFP reports:

‘Several rockets or mortar rounds . . . struck the Iraqi capital’s heavily fortified government compound, as militants took advantage of the absence of US air cover during the storm, witnesses said. In one of the most intense firefights in weeks, the American soldiers killed 28 militants in Sadr City, stronghold of anti-American cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, the military said. Four US soldiers were also wounded in the fighting that began at around 9:30 am (0630 GMT). The fighting erupted when a US patrol was targeted with small-arms fire that wounded one soldier, Lieutenant Colonel Steven Stover told AFP. As the soldier was being evacuated, a US vehicle was struck by two roadside bombs, small-arms fire and rocket-propelled grenades. The “complex” attack damaged the vehicle and wounded three other soldiers, Stover said, adding that another US vehicle was later damaged by a third roadside bomb. The US military said its soldiers defended themselves and “killed 28 militants in a four-hour” battle. Residents said US forces also launched two air strikes in the area which heavily damaged four houses. Pictures taken by an AFP photographer showed a number of bodies buried under the debris of the four houses. But Stover denied that aircraft had been used. The sandstorm had largely grounded US helicopters. Instead he said US troops used heavy rockets against the militants.’

It is now being revealed that on Monday, “Shi’ite militants hit a U.S. military station in southern Sadr City with explosive canisters, badly damaging a tactical operations center and injuring 15 troops.”

Up in the oil city of Kirkuk, the focus of competition between Kurdish Peshmerga on the one hand and Arab and Turkmen guerrillas on the other, “around the oil city of Kirkuk four people were killed and 15 wounded in two bomb attacks.”

McClatchy reports political violence in Iraq on Tuesday:

‘ Baghdad

Gunmen killed the director of the projects in the ministry of labour and social affairs Dheya al Jodi while he was leaving his house in Atifiyah neighborhood in north Baghdad around 7:00 a.m.

Around 1:00 p.m. two mortar shells hit al Jaish club building (the Army Club) in Karrada neighborhood in downtown Baghdad. No casualties reported. Another mortar shell slammed into the area near the neurosurgery hospital in Bab al Sharj neighborhood in downtown Baghdad at the same time. No casualties reported.

Two civilians were injured when a mortar shell hit al Muheet Street in Kadhemiyah neighborhood north Baghdad around 2,45 p.m.

Three civilians were injured when a mortar shell slammed into a house in Karrad Maryam neighborhood in downtown Baghdad around 3:00 p.m.

Two civilians were killed and five others were wounded when a Katyosha rocket hit New Baghdad neighborhood in east Baghdad around 3:15 p.m.

Diyala

A female suicide bomber wearing an explosive vest detonated herself among members of Sahwa (awakening council members) in Abo Saida village north of Baquba city around 7:50 a.m. one sahwa member was killed and five others were wounded

Three members of the Iraqi army were injured when a roadside bomb targeted their vehicle in Baladroz district east of Baquba city around 10:30 a.m.

Three civilians were killed in three attacks by insurgents in three different neighborhoods in Jalawla town northeast of Baquba city around 11:15 a.m.

The director of Sadiyah town Samir al Sadi was injured in an IED explosion that targeted his convoy while he was leaving the building of the directorate in downtown Sadiyah town around 12:20 p.m. one of the guards were killed and two other civilians were injured.

The supporting office of Qazanya district tribes east of Baquba found six unidentified bodies in a deserted house in one of the villages of Qazanya.

Nineveh

A suicide truck bomb tried to attack one of the centers of the Iraqi army in Nahrawan neighborhood in west Mosul city around 7:00 a.m. the soldiers launched an RBG7 shell and exploded the truck before it could reach the center. The driver of the truck was killed and an Iraqi soldier was injured.

An Iraqi soldier was killed and five others were injured when a suicide car bomb attacked their check point in al Yarmouk neighborhood in west Mosul on Tuesday afternoon. ‘