Friday, March 28, 2008

U.S. airstrike kills at least 4 in Baghdad

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AGHDAD - A U.S. helicopter fired a Hellfire missile during fighting in a Shiite militia stronghold of Baghdad on Friday, while U.S. pilots conducted their first airstrikes on the southern city of Basra to aid Iraqi forces battling powerful Shiite militias.

The American air support marked a sharp escalation in the fight — so far led by Iraqi security forces — to cripple armed factions that the Pentagon accuses of links to Iran. It also suggested that the four-day-old ground offensives by Iraqi troops and police are struggling against strong militia resistance.

Washington has called the campaign an important test of Iraq's ability to handle its own security affairs. But setbacks in the battles could increasingly draw in American forces, worried that a sustained fight could wipe away many of the security gains in recent months.


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