BAGHDAD, Iraq – U.S. warplanes pounded the vast Baghdad slum of Sadr City overnight after an American patrol came under gunfire, the military said Tuesday. In the Sunni Triangle city of Ramadi, a car bomb explosion was followed by clashes between U.S. troops and insurgents.
An Associated Press photographer saw two dead bodies and four wounded Iraqis at the scene of the clashes in the al-Ziyout area of Ramadi, a rebel stronghold 70 miles west of Baghdad.
Police Capt. Nassir Hassan said the explosion was a car bomb. U.S. soldiers and rebels exchanged gunfire following the blast. Dr. Dia’a al-Haity at the Ramadi General Hospital confirmed that two persons had died and four were injured in the fighting.
U.S. Marines, patrolling the city Monday, killed two insurgents and wounded a third while two civilians were also injured during the gun battle, a military spokesman said.
Vehicle-borne Marines opened fire on three masked men seen planting a roadside explosive, and after killing two and wounding a third, they pursued three others who later managed to escape, said 1st Lt. Lyle Gilbert, a spokesman for the Marines.
“Two civilians, a woman and a child, were injured in the initial exchange of fire between the Marines and the anti-Iraqi forces. It is unclear at this time how their injuries occurred,” Gilbert said.
U.S. and Iraqi authorities have indicated that Ramadi, along with the nearby city of Fallujah, may have to be swept clear of rebels in order for January elections to take place everywhere in Iraq.
In Sadr City, hospital officials said at least one person was killed in skirmishes between U.S. troops and fighters loyal to renegade Shiite Muslim cleric Muqtada al-Sadr.
U.S. soldiers were fired on late Monday during a routine patrol of the Shiite stronghold, which is home to more than 2 million people, said Capt. Brian O’Malley, spokesman for the U.S. 1st Cavalry Division. They returned fire as U.S. AC-130 planes targeted insurgent machine gun crews on the ground, he said.
One person was killed and two were injured when their car came under fire during the fighting, said Dr.Mohamed Aboud of Sadr hospital said.
Residents said they continued to hear loud explosions until dawn.
U.S. forces have staged almost daily attacks in Sadr City, both from the air and the ground, in an effort to root out militiamen loyal to al-Sadr.
Abu Tar al-Kinani, the spokesman for the insurgents in Sadr City, said the overnight attack was a “liquidation operation” and an effort to keep al-Sadr’s movement from taking part in elections slated for January.
Meanwhile, U.S. Marines have distributed $367,300 in condolence and damage repair payments in the holy city of Najaf since three weeks of fighting ended there in late August, the military said in a statement Tuesday.
In the second round of payments, more than $200,300 were distributed Monday to residents who were caught in the crossfire, the statement said. Payments will continue as long as needed to meet each valid case, it said.
The statement did not specify how many families have benefited from the payments.
U.S. and Iraqi troops fought for three weeks with followers of renegade Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr in Najaf, 100 miles south of Baghdad. The clashes ended with a peace deal brokered by Iraq’s top Shiite cleric Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Husseini al-Sistani.
“We are working hard to demonstrate goodwill to the people of Najaf who incurred loses during fighting in August,” said Col. Anthony Haslam, commander of the 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit.
Condolence payments are made to express sympathy to those who were injured or lost family members during the fighting. Collateral damage payments are intended for Iraqis who suffered damage to their homes, businesses or other property.
Near Baghdad, one soldier from the U.S. Army’s 13th Corps Support Command was killed and two were injured when their convoy hit a homemade bomb, the military said in a statement Tuesday. The name of the dead soldier was withheld pending notification of the family.
As of Monday, Oct. 4, 2004, 1,058 members of the U.S. military had died since the beginning of the Iraq war in March 2003, according to the Defense Department. Of those, 803 died as a result of hostile action. The figures include three military civilians.
On Monday, the former head of the U.S. occupation in Iraq, L. Paul Bremer, said the United States did not have enough troops in Iraq after ousting Saddam Hussein and “paid a big price” for it.
Bremer said he arrived in Iraq on May 6, 2003 to find “horrid” looting and a very unstable situation.
“We paid a big price for not stopping it because it established an atmosphere of lawlessness,” Bremer said during an address to an insurance group in White Sulphur Springs, W.Va. The group released a summary of his remarks in Washington.
“We never had enough troops on the ground,” Bremer said, while insisting that he was “more convinced than ever that regime change was the right thing to do.”
In Baghdad, insurgents unleashed a pair of powerful car bombs Monday near the symbol of U.S. authority in Iraq — the Green Zone, where the U.S. Embassy and key government offices are located — and hotels occupied by hundreds of foreigners. Two other explosions brought the day’s bombing toll to at least 24 dead and more than 100 wounded.
More than three dozen car bombings since the beginning of September illustrate the militants’ seeming ability to strike at will despite recent pledges by the United States and Iraq to intensify the suppression of insurgents, and the morale-boosting recapture of Samarra over the weekend.
Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld said Monday he does not expect a civil war to erupt in Iraq, and pointed to the formerly insurgent-held city of Samarra as an example of success.
“I don’t think it’s going to happen,” Rumsfeld said in New York at the Council on Foreign Relations, when asked about the threat of civil war. “But what has to be done in that country is what basically was done in Samarra over the last 48 hours.”