At least 11 killed, 27 wounded in Baghdad's Sadr City

Other News Materials 9 April 2008 17:42 (UTC +04:00)

(dpa) - At least 11 people were killed, including women and children, and 27 wounded on Wednesday when mortar shells struck the Shiite Sadr City area of east Baghdad, witnesses said.

Mortar shells hit a funeral, killing eight and injuring 27, witnesses told Deutsche Presse-Agentur dpa. A few minutes later, a mortar shell hit a house in the same district, killing a woman and her two children.

Loud explosions were heard in Sadr City, a stronghold of the Mahdi Army of radical Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, and US helicopters were striking the area which has been encircled by US and Iraqi troops for nearly two weeks.

Fatah al-Shikh, a Shiite Sadrist, told dpa that US helicopters strike the city on a daily bases.

He said that at least 60 people, including women, children and the elderly, were killed and another 200 injured since US airstrikes hit the city on March 25.

"The US forces are now taking over the main streets and governmental bureaus in the city, while US troops are deployed on the roofs and kill innocent civilians in the streets," al-Sheikh said.

He added that the Shiite city is deprived of electricity and suffers from water shortages. Medical and food products are also unavailable.

Meanwhile, Baghdad's streets are quieter than usual as security forces imposed a one-day blanket curfew to prevent any violence on the fifth anniversary of the fall of the Iraqi capital to US troops.

Traffic in and around Baghdad was banned and security was beefed up in neighbourhoods known for violence. Stores were closed down, governmental offices were not working and Iraqi newspapers were not on the stands.

It has been five years since the US-led invasion of Iraq toppled the regime of then president Saddam Hussein and US troops took control over Baathist ministries and bureaus.

In spite of the subsequent political developments and the bigger political share that the Shiites have been enjoying since the US forces entered Iraq on April 9, 2003, some of them, mainly Sadrists, still say that US troops should be driven out of the country.

Al-Sadr cancelled the so-called "march of millions" in which hundreds of thousands of Shiite Iraqis planned protests against US occupation.

The radical cleric ordered his followers to postpone their mass demonstrations to protect themselves from any anniversary-related killings.

The government launched on March 25 an offensive targeting mainly al-Sadr's militiamen in Basra but halted military operations after al-Sadr moved to halt fighting.

"We have seen the security restrictions of al-Maliki's government and the extent of the escalation against Iraqis across Iraq, as if all Iraqis are criminals," al-Sadr said in his statement.

He added: "This spread of security implies that the government is still under the deceiving US pressure and that is why it (the government) has tried to annul the march of millions."