Police: Iraqi troops abandon position after attack

A company of Iraqi government troops in Sadr City retreated when they came under attack from Shiite fighters who used the cover of a sandstorm, police said Friday.

Police: Iraqi troops abandon position after attack

The clashes overnight killed two people and wounded nine, a police commander said.

The officer, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he is not authorized to release the information, said it was unclear whether there were any casualties among the soldiers.

The reports of the latest setback for the Iraqi army come after government officials acknowledged that during fighting last month against Shiite militias in the southern city of Basra, more than 1,300 Iraqi soldiers and police deserted or refused to fight.

The police officer said fighters belonging to the Mahdi Army of cleric Muqtada al-Sadr launched their attack shortly before midnight on army positions in Sadr City.

The company responsible for that section withdrew, abandoning their positions, including their command post in al-Nasir police station, he said.

The officer did not know exactly how many troops were involved. An Iraqi infantry company normally has 150 men but many in the field are undermanned and have only 80-90.

U.S. troops responded with artillery fire, but no helicopters or unmanned drones were sighted, the officer said. There was no immediate comment from the Iraqi or U.S. military.

The attack in Sadr City occurred late Thursday while Baghdad was blanketed by one of the worst sandstorms in months. The thick clouds of dust reduced visibility and forced the closure of the international airport. It also appeared to affect military flights.

Apparently taking advantage of the reduced aerial activity, fighters also repeatedly shelled the Green Zone that houses diplomatic missions and much of the Iraqi government.

Sadrist leaders on Friday urged the government to stop erecting concrete walls in Sadr City and other Shiite neighborhoods.

Similar walls have gone up in other Baghdad neighborhoods.

Also Friday, the Mahdi Army urged government troops to desert and described Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's government as "just like Saddam's."

"To all brothers in the government's forces of army and police commandos, we invite you to repent and rejoin the national line and embrace your suffering people," said the group's statement, which was printed on leaflets distributed throughout the city.

Agencies

Last Mod: 18 Nisan 2008, 17:59
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