4 U.S. Troops In Baghdad Are Killed by Rocket Fire

By Ernesto Londoño and Amit R. Paley
Washington Post Foreign Service
Tuesday, April 29, 2008

BAGHDAD, April 28 -- Four U.S. soldiers were killed in two rocket attacks in Baghdad on Monday as clashes between U.S.-backed Iraqi forces and Shiite militiamen intensified, the military said.

Three soldiers were killed about 1 p.m. in eastern Baghdad, where fighters loyal to anti-American Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr have battled U.S. and Iraqi troops. The fourth American soldier was killed at 4:15 p.m. in the western part of the capital, a U.S. military spokesman said. The military provided few other details about the attacks.

The deaths marked one of the deadliest days for U.S. troops in Iraq since Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki launched an offensive against Shiite militias in the southern city of Basra in late March, prompting retaliation there and in the vast Shiite district of Sadr City in Baghdad. Forty-four U.S. troops have died in Iraq in April, according to iCasualties.org, which tracks military fatalities, more than any month since September.

Also Monday, militiamen launched a mortar and rocket attack against a combat outpost in Sadr City shortly after several top military officials, including Brig. Gen. William F. Grimsley, had visited. Fifteen U.S. soldiers were injured in the attack, none seriously, said Lt. Col. Steve Stover, a U.S. military spokesman.

"We will continue fighting to get a safe environment and neighborhood for the citizens of Sadr City," Grimsley told reporters during his visit to the outpost.

Elsewhere, U.S. soldiers aboard helicopters and an Abrams tank killed at least seven people in eastern Baghdad on Monday, the U.S. military said.

U.S. soldiers came under small-arms attack shortly after 3 p.m. and responded by firing a Hellfire missile, which killed at least four people, and a round from an Abrams tank that killed three additional people, the military said.

"I don't know what's going through the enemy's mind when they're firing at Abrams tanks," Stover said. "The soldiers have a right to protect themselves."

U.S. officials say they are fighting bands of Iranian-backed militias that are ignoring a cease-fire order issued by Sadr last year. The cleric has in recent weeks issued statements saying his followers are being indiscriminately targeted by U.S.-backed Iraqi forces. He has threatened to wage an "open war" and assailed the presence of U.S. troops in Iraq, but has stopped short of lifting the cease-fire outright.

Meanwhile, rockets continued to strike the Green Zone on Monday, a day after the fortified enclave that houses U.S. diplomats and Iraqi government officials was pummeled as rocket launchers took advantage of a heavy dust storm that grounded U.S. military helicopters.

Leslie Phillips, a spokeswoman at the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad, said the Green Zone was struck by an undisclosed amount of rocket or mortar fire Monday. She said she had no reports of embassy personnel being killed or wounded in the attacks.

Also Monday, U.S. soldiers said they killed 10 suspected Sunni insurgents in five operations near Baghdad, the military said in a statement.

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