Iraqi and U.S. forces today fought a battle with gunmen in eastern Baghdad as they intensified efforts to quell surging violence in the Iraqi capital. Separately, three U.S. soldiers died yesterday in a bombing southwest of the city...Security forces targeted "individuals involved in punishment and torture'' activities in today's raid, said a statement e-mailed by the U.S. military. A two-hour firefight with members of Shiite Muslim cleric Moqtada al-Sadr's Mehdi Army ensued in the Sadr City area, Agence-France Presse reported, citing an Iraqi defense official...Today's raid was retribution for an Aug. 4 demonstration that al-Sadr's group organized to protest Israel's offensive against Hezbollah in Lebanon, the head of al-Sadr's office in Sadr City, Abdulzahra Al-Suwaidi, told AFP.The Sydney (Australia) Morning Herald:
Meanwhile, Swissinfo.com makes a mockery of the right-wing contention that Iraq is "on the brink" of a civil war:
The Iraqi Prime Minister, Nouri al-Maliki, has strongly criticised a US-Iraqi attack on a Shiite militia stronghold in Baghdad, exposing a rift with his American partners on security tactics...Mr Maliki, a Shiite, said he was "very angered and pained" by the operation, warning that it could undermine his efforts towards national reconciliation.
"Reconciliation cannot go hand in hand with operations that violate the rights of citizens this way," Mr Maliki said. "This operation used weapons that are unreasonable to detain someone - like using planes."
The surge in Sunni-Shiite violence has been blamed on Mr Sadr, who has emerged as a powerful figure in the majority Shiite population and a pillar of support for Mr Maliki.
Nearly 45,000 Iraqis have died since our invasion in 2003. Can we stop the pretense now that things are "better" in Iraq than they were before?
Almost 2,000 bodies were taken to Baghdad's morgue in July, the highest tally in five months of rising sectarian bloodshed which has forced the United States to boost troop levels in the capital to head off a civil war...Major General William Caldwell, chief U.S. military spokesman in Iraq, said on Wednesday that U.S. and Iraqi forces had conducted operations against 10 death squads throughout Baghdad in the last week, and also found 222 roadside bombs.
Sunni Arab leaders have accused Shi'ite militias of running death squads, a charge they deny.