BAGHDAD – Suspected Shiite militants lobbed rockets and mortar shells into the U.S.-protected Green Zone and a military base elsewhere in Baghdad on Sunday, killing three American troops and wounding 31, officials said. Two more U.S. troops were reported dead elsewhere.
The attacks occurred as U.S. and Iraqi forces battled Shiite militants in Sadr City in some of the fiercest fighting since radical cleric Muqtada al-Sadr ordered a cease-fire a week ago. At least 16 Iraqi civilians were killed and nearly 100 wounded in the fighting, according to hospital officials.
A military official said two U.S. troops died and 17 were wounded in the attack on the Green Zone, which houses the U.S. Embassy and the Iraqi government headquarters in central Baghdad.
Another American service member was killed and 14 were wounded in the attack on a base in the southeastern Baghdad area of Rustamiyah, the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity because he wasn’t authorized to release the information.
The U.S. military said separately that an American soldier was killed Sunday in a roadside bombing in the volatile Diyala province north of Baghdad. A U.S. soldier assigned to the division operating south of the capital also died Sunday from non-combat related injuries, according to a statement.
The deaths raised to at least 4,018 members of the U.S. military who have died since the Iraq war started in March 2003, according to an Associated Press count.
A senior U.S. military official, also declining to be identified for the same reason, said the rockets were fired at the Green Zone from Sadr City, while the mortar shells came from another predominantly Shiite neighborhood in eastern Baghdad, New Baghdad.
U.S. commanders have blamed what they call Iranian-backed rogue militia groups for launching missiles against American forces.
Fierce fighting erupted in Sadr City earlier Sunday after Iraqi troops backed by U.S. soldiers and attack helicopters tried to advance deeper into the enclave of some 2.5 million people.
American helicopters also fired Hellfire missiles that destroyed a vehicle and killed nine militants who were attacking Iraqi security forces with rocket-propelled grenades in the area, the military said in a statement.
The surge in violence came as tensions rose in Shiite areas despite al-Sadr’s cease-fire order issued March 30 that eased nearly a week of clashes in Baghdad, Basra and other cities in the Shiite south. The cleric stopped short of asking his fighters to surrender their weapons, and sporadic clashes have continued.