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Key aide to Iraq PM slams U.S. raid on mosque

Written by: Staff

Baghdad, Mar 27: A top aide to Iraqi Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari condemned a U.S. raid on a Shi'ite mosque in Baghdad which killed 20 people today as a ''policy of aggression''.

''I demand a full investigation of this crime,'' Jawad al- Maliki, a member of Sadr's Dawa party, told Shi'ite-dominated state television.

Shi'ite officials, who came to power in elections after a US-led invasion toppled Saddam Hussein's Sunni-dominated government in 2003, rarely criticise the United States.

Maliki's remarks came a day after US ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad called on the Shi'ite-dominated government to crack down on militias, saying they are killing more Iraqis than insurgents.

Iraqi police and residents said the raid in the Shaab district of east Baghdad sparked fierce clashes with militiamen of the Mehdi Army loyal to radical cleric Moqtada al-Sadr.

A senior aide to Sadr, in comments that could inflame passions among the radical cleric's supporters, accused U.S.

troops of shooting dead more than 20 unarmed worshippers at the Mustapha mosque. The mosque's faithful follow Sadr but the aide denied they were Mehdi Army gunmen.

Sadr, who has led two armed revolts against U.S. and Iraqi forces, is Jaafari's main supporter in the main Shi'ite alliance.

Al Iraqiya state television, which repeatedly showed footage of bodies inside the mosque, identified the dead as nationals, not militiamen.

A medical source at Yarmouk hospital said he saw 18 bodies of Iraqis killed in the operation.

Police sources said 20 Mehdi Army fighters were killed in the fighting, close to Sadr's stronghold in the Sadr City slum, and five vehicles belonging to the militia were burned.


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