October 21, 2007
Women and children among victims of air strike targeting “criminals” in Sadr City.
A raid in Baghdad has killed 49 people, according to the US military.
The deaths took place in an early morning operation in Sadr City on Sunday, “targeting criminals believed to be responsible for the kidnapping of coalition soldiers in November 2006 and May 2007”, a US military statement said.
Lieutenant-General Justin Cole, a US military spokesman, acknowledged in an email that aircraft were used on Sunday but was not more specific.
Two police sources said the dead included women and children.
One of the sources said the raids came after a US vehicle was targeted by a roadside bomb.
James Bays, Al Jazeera’s correspondent in Baghdad said that although the US claimed all the victims were “criminals”, some of those killed were clearly civilians.
A television cameraman has filmed bodies of dead children, he said.
Iraqi police and hospital officials said US helicopters and fighter jets bombed buildings during the 5am raid in the district.
Several houses and stores were damaged.
Clouds of black smoke rose from the area early on Sunday as sirens wailed, heavy gunfire echoed and US helicopters circled overhead, Reuters television footage showed.
The US military said “an estimated 49 criminals” were killed in three separate engagements during a raid targeting a suspected rogue Shia militia leader specialising in kidnapping operations for which he sought funding from Iran.
US troops returned fire after coming under sustained attack from automatic weapons and rocket-propelled grenades from nearby buildings as they began to raid a series of buildings in the district, according to a statement.
It said about 33 fighters were killed in the clash. Ground forces then called in air strikes, which killed some six fighters.
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