BAGHDAD, Iraq – Two bombs exploded about 20 minutes apart Thursday in eastern Baghdad, killing at least 11 Iraqis and wounding dozens, officials said. The American military said five U.S. troops died in separate attacks.
The explosions at a gas station and a market came hours after a U.S. helicopter fired rockets after coming under attack in a crowded Shiite neighborhood elsewhere in eastern Baghdad, killing a young woman.
The U.S. attack in the vast Sadr City slum damaged several houses and cars, and both residents and Shiite politicians condemned it as reckless and provocative.
The military said the exchange of fire took place about 1 a.m. as U.S. troops were pursuing a “known terrorist associated with Ansar al-Sunnah,” a Sunni militant group that has claimed responsibility for numerous suicide attacks and beheadings.
“As troops were leaving the area in a U.S. military helicopter, men on a nearby rooftop began firing at the aircraft,” said military spokesman Sgt. Stacy Simon. “The helicopter returned fire with guns and rockets.”
The other blasts in eastern Baghdad began when a car bomb detonated near a gas station about 5 p.m., killing at least two people and wounding 13.
Another car bomb, believed driven by a suicide attacker, went off 20 minutes later in a bustling outdoor market, killing nine people and wounding 57, said police Maj. Falahal-Mohammedawi and another official.
The U.S. military also announced five new deaths occurred Wednesday – the first American military personnel reported killed since Jan. 28.
A roadside bomb blast killed three U.S. soldiers south of Baghdad, while a fourth soldier died from wounds suffered in a small-arms fire attack in the capital’s southwest, the military said. A U.S. Marine was fatally wounded Wednesday during combat near the western city of Fallujah.
Elsewhere, a mortar attack set ablaze a major petroleum facility in the northern city of Kirkuk on Thursday, stopping refining processes at the plant and further damaging Iraq’s beleaguered oil industry.
Iraqi oil workers were still fighting the fire late Thursday and U.S. officials held high-level meetings in Baghdad to assess the damage. An Iraqi official of the North Oil Company said the incident was “the most severe attack we have ever faced on an oil installation.”
The mortar rounds also hit an important pipeline to Turkey that was already out of order and was being repaired, the official said.