BAGHDAD, (AP) – An explosion apparently targeting U.S. troops struck a local council building Tuesday in Baghdad’s Shiite Sadr City district, killing at least six Iraqi civilians, police and witnesses said.
The U.S. military confirmed a blast near the district advisory council building in Sadr City but did not immediately release more details pending reports from the scene.
Ten civilians also were wounded in the blast, which occurred shortly after 9 a.m. near the deputy council chief’s office as Americans approached, police officials said, speaking on condition of anonymity because they weren’t authorized to release the information.
Witnesses said U.S. troops had cordoned off the area.
The explosion came a day after a gunman opened fire on U.S. soldiers attending a municipal council meeting southeast of Baghdad, killing two of them and wounding four other Americans.
U.S. military officers have been working vigorously to restore and promote local administrations amid a sharp drop in attacks over the past year, with the goal of preventing areas from falling back under the control of rival Sunni and Shiite extremists.
Their increased presence in local communities has made them more vulnerable to attacks, but American commanders have cited it as a necessary factor in a strategy that has helped drive down the levels of violence to the lowest point in more than four years.
The assailant in Madain, also known as Salman Pak, about 15 miles south of Baghdad, was believed to be a former Sunni member of the municipal council. He died in a hail of gunfire after the attack, which occurred in an area with a history of Sunni-Shiite tension.
U.S. officials confirmed two American soldiers died and that four Americans, including a civilian interpreter, were wounded. However, the U.S. officials released no further details except that the assailant was killed.
The motive for the attack was unclear, and officials were investigating whether the gunman had ties to Sunni insurgents.
In other violence Tuesday, gunmen killed the head of the local council in Abu Dshir, a Shiite enclave in the mainly Sunni area of Dora in southern Baghdad.
Police said the council chief Mahdi Alwan was a member of anti-U.S. Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr’s movement but gave no other information about a possible motive.
The U.S.-backed Iraqi military, meanwhile, pressed forward with an offensive against al-Sadr’s Mahdi Army militia and other armed groups in the southern city of Amarah.
The Iraqi Defense Ministry announced a three-day deadline for all parties to voluntarily evacuate government buildings in Maysan province, of which Amarah is the capital, or face removal by force.
A provincial government official also said Iraqi security forces had begun a campaign to remove all portraits and pictures of senior religious figures from walls, buildings and the streets in the province as raids continued.