BAGHDAD - Suspected Shi'ite militants lobbed rockets and mortar shells into the US-protected Green Zone and a military base elsewhere in Baghdad yesterday, killing three American troops and wounding 31, officials said.
The attacks occurred as US and Iraqi forces battled Shi'ite militants in Sadr City in some of the fiercest fighting since radical cleric Moqtada 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 US service members died and 17 were wounded in the attack on the Green Zone, which houses the US 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 US military said separately that an American soldier was killed yesterday in a roadside bombing in the volatile Diyala Province north of Baghdad. A US soldier assigned to the division operating south of the capital also died yesterday from noncombat-related injuries, according to a statement.
The deaths raised to at least 4,018 members of the US military who have died since the Iraq war started in March 2003, according to an Associated Press count.
A senior US military official, also declining to be identified, said the rockets were fired at the Green Zone from Sadr City, while the mortar shells came from another predominantly Shi'ite neighborhood in eastern Baghdad, New Baghdad.
US commanders have blamed what they call Iranian-backed rogue militia groups for launching missiles against American forces.
The strikes occurred despite a strong push by the US military to prevent militants from using suspected launching sites on the southern edge of Sadr City, the Baghdad stronghold of the Mahdi Army of anti-US cleric Moqtada al-Sadr.
Fierce fighting erupted in Sadr City earlier yesterday after Iraqi troops backed by US soldiers and attack helicopters tried to advance deeper into the enclave of about 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 Shi'ite areas despite Sadr's cease-fire order issued March 30 that eased nearly a week of clashes in Baghdad, Basra and other cities in the Shi'ite south.