April was the cruelest month in seven months in terms of the numbers of both civilians and U.S. troops who lost their lives in Iraq. A spate of deadly bombings on Wednesday killed four U.S. soldiers, bringing the monthlong total of American dead to 50, and Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s crackdown on Shiite followers of Moqtada al-Sadr made for more intense violence, particularly in Basra and Sadr City, which contributed to a reported 969 Iraqi civilian deaths.
Los Angeles Times:
U.S. commanders say the Iraqi military and police are becoming more capable. Though they acknowledge that the government crackdown was poorly planned at the start, they say the Iraqi military quickly mobilized reinforcements and regained control of the southern oil hub of Basra with the help of U.S. and British air power.
But the government did not appear to have anticipated the fierce backlash from militiamen loyal to radical Shiite cleric Muqtada Sadr in Baghdad, where clashes continue daily.
Many of the militiamen’s attacks are directed against U.S. forces, who have moved into the southern portion of the cleric’s stronghold in the capital, the slum known as Sadr City, in a bid to stop rockets and mortar rounds from being fired toward the troops’ bases and the city’s fortified Green Zone.
U.S. soldiers in Sadr City have faced assaults by militiamen wielding rocket-propelled grenades on roads laced with bombs and have responded with airstrikes and tank fire.
The military says it makes every effort to avoid civilian casualties; however, residents are often caught in the crossfire.
The number of civilian deaths reported by the Iraqi government for April was 969, the highest since August, when 1,773 were recorded killed. At least 28 Iraqi soldiers and 69 policemen also were reported killed. Officials at two hospitals in Sadr City alone said they had received 321 bodies in the last month.