BAGHDAD — U.S. helicopters blasted rooftops in a Shiite neighborhood before dawn Friday as American troops battled gunmen on the ground, killing at least eight by the military’s count. Shiites claimed some civilians died and radicals castigated Iraq’s government as being too weak to rein in the Americans. The criticism put new pressure on the Shiite prime minister, Nouri al-Maliki, who already was under fire from U.S. critics over his government’s failure to achieve national unity.
|Ali Jabr and his daughter Hiba weep Friday after he lost four of his brothers in early morning clashes in Shula in northwest Baghdad.|
Elsewhere, an explosion killed one American soldier and wounded four in Salahuddin province, a mostly Sunni Arab area north of the capital. The blast came hours after suspected al-Qaida in Iraq fighters attacked police stations in Samarra, a city in the province about 60 miles north of Baghdad. A policeman, a woman and an 11-year-old girl were reported killed.
The U.S. military said the battle in Baghdad erupted when a U.S. Army patrol came under fire shortly after midnight from gunmen on rooftops in Shula, a rundown Shiite neighborhood that is a stronghold of the Mahdi Army militia of anti-U.S. cleric Muqtada al-Sadr.
Troops called in attack helicopters, which raked the rooftops with automatic weapons fire, a U.S. spokesman, Lt. Col. Scott Bleichwehl, said.