US forces launch airstrikes in Iraq

BAGHDAD – US forces stepped deeper yesterday into the Iraqi government’s fight to cripple Shiite militias, launching airstrikes in the southern city of Basra and firing a Hellfire missile in the main Shiite stronghold in Baghdad.

The American support occurred as Iraqi troops struggled against strong resistance in Basra and retaliation elsewhere in Shiite areas — including more salvos of rockets or mortars into the US-protected Green Zone in Baghdad.

It was the first time American jets have been called to attack militia positions since Iraqi ground forces launched an operation Tuesday to clear Basra of the armed groups that have effectively ruled the streets of the country’s second-largest city for nearly three years.

One militia barrage slammed into the headquarters of the Basra police command, triggering a huge fire and explosions when one of the rounds struck a gasoline tanker, police officials said.

ASSOCITED PRESS

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