U.S. helicopter fires rockets into Baghdad's Sadr City

A U.S. helicopter fired rockets into a crowded Shiite neighborhood of eastern Baghdad on Thursday after gunmen shot at it, killing a young woman and enraging both residents and Shiite politicians. The U.S. military said the exchange of fire took place in Sadr City at about 1 a.m. as U.S. troops were pursuing a "known terrorist associated with Ansar al-Sunnah," a Sunni Arab 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 military had no details on casualties, but Sadr City resident Abdul-Hussein Shanoof said his 20-year-old daughter, housewife Ikhlas Abdul-Hussein, was killed. Shanoof was also wounded, along with another woman and a 2-year-old child.

Footage showed Shanoof's house with a large hole that had been blasted through his roof and rubble scattered inside. "At night the aircraft bombed this and that house. One girl died. The aircraft remained bombing us until morning," a Sadr City resident, who declined to identify himself, told Associated Press Television News. The attack happened inside Sadr City, the power base of radical anti-U.S. Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, which was the scene of fierce clashes between Shiite militiamen and American forces in 2004 through to early 2005.

But American forces have been recently holding up the neighborhood as a model of improving relations between the U.S. military and the Iraqi community. Transport Minister Salam al-Maliki, an al-Sadr supporter, condemned the U.S. attack and demanded compensation for victims.

"These military operations aim at weakening the supporters of the Sadrist movement, are considered provocative and represent a clear violation against the security situation in the country," al-Maliki told The Associated Press in the southern city of Basra.

In Baghdad, another Sadr supporter, Shiite lawmaker Falah Hassan Shanshal, accused the U.S. of trying to "draw the Sadr movement into a new fight to affect our participation in the political process,” reports the AP. I.L.

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