26 ‘Iran-linked terrorists’ killed in Baghdad raid

1345.jpgBaghdad (AFP) US and Iraqi forces, backed by helicopters, killed 26 militants suspected of links to “Iranian terror networks” in raids in the Baghdad Shiite district of Sadr City Saturday, the US military said.
    
Seventeen other suspects were detained.
    
“Coalition forces conducted two separate raids targeting suspected secret cell terrorists during pre-dawn hours Saturday in Sadr City,” the military said. 

“It is believed that the suspected terrorists have close ties to Iranian terror networks and are responsible for facilitating the flow of lethal aid into Iraq,” it added.
    
A medic at Al Sadr hospital in Sadr City said that the hospital had received eight bodies and admitted 20 people wounded in the raids.
    
Residents were awakened before dawn to the sound of rockets slamming into buildings and machine gun fire echoing off the concrete apartment blocks of the impoverished neighborhood, a witness said.
    
Dozens of gunmen ran through the streets, firing pistols and machine guns at the US helicopters circling overhead, which responded with missiles. Several cars and homes were destroyed.
    
The US military confirmed that its forces came under heavy attack, with militants firing several rocket-propelled grenades. No US or Iraqi troops were wounded in the clashes.
    
Sadr City is a major bastion of support for anti-American Shiite cleric Moqtada Al Sadr, whose powerful Mahdi Army militia patrols the streets and provides welfare services to the neighborhood.
    
The US military also accuses the militia of killing Sunni Arabs in the sectarian conflict gripping Iraq.
    
Saturday’s raids are the latest in a series of operations targeting militants in the area that US commanders say receive weapons and support from neighboring Iran.
    
The military says the weapons have included sophisticated shaped explosives capable of penetrating US armor.
    
Tehran has always denied the charges, insisting it supports the Shiite-led government of Prime Minister Nuri Al Maliki.
    
In May, the US ambassador to Iraq and his Iranian counterpart met in Baghdad for landmark talks aimed at improving security in the war-torn country, but US commanders charge that Iran has continued to foment unrest.
    
“There is absolutely evidence of Iranian operatives moving weapons, training fighters, providing resources, helping to plan operations, [and] resourcing secret cells,” US military spokesman Brigadier General Kevin Bergner told a press conference last week.
    
“We would like very much to see some action on their part” in halting support for armed groups, he added. “We have not seen it yet.”
    
At the same press conference, the US embassy number two said there were no future talks on the horizon.
    
“We do not yet have another meeting scheduled for that dialogue with Iraq and Iran,” charge d’affaires Daniel Speckhard said.
    
“While the Iranian side had stated some common desires and goals for Iraq in terms of stability, peace, democracy, and so forth … their actions were out of line with their stated goals and objectives,” he added.

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