A rocket slammed into Baghdad’s City Hall and another hit a downtown park Tuesday as more frightened civilians fled a Shiite Muslim militia stronghold where U.S.-led forces and gunmen are locked in street battles.
The American push in the Iraqi capital’s Sadr City district is aimed at weakening the militia’s grip in a key corner of Baghdad and disrupting rocket and mortar strikes on the U.S.-protected Green Zone.
But fresh salvos of rockets fired by militants arced over the capital, wounding at least 16 people and drawing U.S. retaliation that escalated civilian panic and sent many fleeing to safer areas.
One rocket, apparently aimed at the Green Zone, blasted the nearby City Hall. Three rockets hit parts of central Baghdad, including a playground in a park. An Iraqi police station was damaged by a rocket that failed to detonate, the U.S. military said.
An attack aircraft fired two Hellfire missiles and killed three militants who were planting a roadside bomb in the Shiite neighborhood of New Baghdad, the military added.
At least four civilians were killed in the clashes, hospital officials said.
The latest battles came as the Pentagon announced plans to cut U.S. troop strength by about 3,500 as part of its goal of withdrawing most of the forces sent into Baghdad and surrounding areas last year in a U.S. military buildup.
The departing soldiers, with the 3rd Heavy Brigade Combat Team, will redeploy to Ft. Benning, Ga., the military said.
In the northern city of Mosul, a U.S. soldier was killed when Sunni insurgents attacked a patrol, the military said.
A total of 4,072 American military personnel have died since the Iraq war began in March 2003, according to icasualties.org.