BAGHDAD, (Reuters) – Nineteen people have been killed and 116 wounded in clashes between security forces and militants in eastern Baghdad’s Sadr City district in the past 24 hours, the two hospitals in the Shi’ite slum said on Saturday.
Women and children were among the wounded, officials from the hospitals said following a day of sometimes intense fighting between gunmen loyal to anti-American Shi’ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr and U.S. and Iraqi soldiers.
The U.S. military, in its latest account of the fighting, said on Saturday it had killed eight militants in different districts of Baghdad on Friday. It was unclear if any of those were among the bodies received by the two Sadr City hospitals. That brings to 33 the total number of gunmen that U.S. forces say they killed in Baghdad on Thursday and Friday.
Fighting has flared in Baghdad since Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki ordered a crackdown on militias in late March.
Sadr threatened last month to scrap a truce he imposed on his Mehdi Army militia in August. A few weeks later, he urged them to continue to observe the ceasefire, leaving Iraqis guessing over his intentions. But clashes in Baghdad have continued every day, raising questions over the control Sadr has over those claiming allegiance to him and to what extent he wants to end the conflict.
Most fighting has been concentrated in and around Sadr City, where 2 million people are caught in a battle zone.
Aid workers have warned of a looming humanitarian crisis as trapped civilians are running out of food, water and medicines.