Source AP ©

US forces kill 3 civilians in Sadr City, witnesses and police say

Nine suspects were killed by U.S. troops in a raid early Tuesday on the Baghdad stronghold of a powerful Shiite militia, the military said. But police and witnesses say only three people were killed, all civilians.

Iraqi officials said eight others were injured in the pre-dawn operation in Sadr City - home to 2.5 million of Baghdad's poorest residents as well the Mahdi Army, a militia loyal to anti-American cleric Muqtada al-Sadr. Last month, al-Sadr called a temporary halt to the group's activities after deadly Shiite-on-Shiite violence in Karbala.

A resident who described himself as a tribal leader, Hussein Mohammed Mishan, said one of those killed was a teenage boy who was shot dead by American troops when he opened his front door to see what was going on outside.

A neighbor who gave only his nickname, Abu Ali, said: "What did this young man do to deserve this? His mother was shouting for help at 4 a.m., but we were helpless because American soldiers were all around. Anyone who comes out will be shot."

At least two children were among the wounded, an Iraqi officer said on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to release the information.

The U.S. raid was conducted to "detain criminals involved in murder, kidnapping, IED and mortar attacks and weapons smuggling," the military said in a statement. Nine "armed terrorists" were killed and eight others were captured, it said.

The Iraqi officer put the number of suspects arrested at ten, and said eight civilian cars were damaged as well. Several sheep and cattle were also killed in a yard fire ignited by gunfire, he added.

Associated Press Television News footage showed at least four flattened cars, with windshields shattered and doors crumpled. Witnesses said U.S. military vehicles had driven over then in narrow dirt passageways between city blocks.

The video also showed at least two homes with door locks blown off and the interiors ransacked.

The U.S. statement said American aircraft fired on a dump truck believed to have been used by terrorists. It was destroyed.

A day earlier, U.S. and Iraqi troops killed three civilians during a similar raid in the same area, police and residents said. The U.S. military denied there were any civilian or military casualties from Monday's operation, which it described as targeting a suspected Shiite extremist who eluded capture.

But residents showed APTN the coffins of the people they said were killed in the raid - a woman and her two daughters. A police officer, speaking on condition of anonymity for security reasons, confirmed they were killed in the firefight.

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