U.S. says at least 20 Shiites killed

June 19, 2007|By Tina Susman | Tina Susman,LOS ANGELES TIMES

BAGHDAD -- U.S.-led forces did battle with Shiite Muslim militiamen in southern Iraq yesterday and killed at least 20 suspected fighters, the military said, while car bombs and other violence left at least 40 people dead in the capital following days of calm brought on by a curfew.

Violence also erupted again in Samarra, north of Baghdad, the site of a bombing last Wednesday that targeted a revered Shiite shrine and prompted officials to clamp curfews on Baghdad and Samarra. Police said four people died when a suicide bomber rammed his car into a Samarra school that was being used to house police officers.

A 24-hour curfew in Samarra was relaxed Saturday, and movements were restricted only from 8 p.m. until 7 a.m. The car bomber struck yesterday afternoon.

Four suspects were arrested in connection with the mosque bombing.

Baghdad's curfew, also imposed in the wake of last week's blast at the Golden Mosque, was lifted Sunday. While in place, it had kept a lid on sectarian bloodshed and other violence, but police yesterday said in the first 24 hours after its lifting, the bodies of 33 men were found strewn across the capital. All were believed to be victims of sectarian death squads.

Also yesterday, the U.S. military announced the death of an American soldier.

In the city of Fallujah in western Anbar province, two car bombs exploded in two markets. Police said at least 13 Iraqis died.

U.S.-led forces launched major attacks in southern Baghdad's Maysan province in what appeared to be a nationwide move against Shiite militiamen and Sunni insurgents.

Operations were launched over the weekend in areas surrounding Baghdad as the military sought to cut supply routes for Sunni insurgents moving arms and fighters into the capital. The battles in Maysan were aimed at Shiite militiamen loyal to radical cleric Muqtada al-Sadr.

A military statement said at least 20 suspected terrorists were killed and six wounded.

Locals, though, said the casualties included civilians.

Tina Susman writes for the Los Angeles Times.

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