US troops fight Sunni militants holed up in Iraqi mosque | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, August 18, 2007 / LAST MODIFIED: 12:00 AM, August 18, 2007

US troops fight Sunni militants holed up in Iraqi mosque

Four more GIs die in separate incidents

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US troops clashed with suspected Sunni insurgents holed up in a mosque north of Baghdad and launched an air-to-ground Hellfire missile into the structure.
Four more American soldiers were killed in the fighting and non-battle related causes, the military said yesterday.
The soldier was killed and another was wounded when troops stationed at a nearby outpost came under heavy small-arms fire from the Honest Mohammed Mosque late Thursday in Tarmiyah as they targeted about six insurgents who were believed sheltered inside, according to the military.
Three more American soldiers have died in Iraq, including two who lost their lives due to non-battle related causes, the US military said yesterday.
One soldier died of wounds sustained from "enemy fire" in Baghdad province on Thursday, the military said, adding another soldier was also wounded but had returned to duty.
It also said two soldiers had died of "non-battled related causes" on Thursday and an investigation was launched into their deaths.
The latest losses brought the military's death toll in Iraq since the March 2003 invasion to 3,699 and to 49 in August alone, according to an AFP count based on Pentagon figures.
The US forces then cordoned off the area and, unable to find the mosque's preacher, sent the Sunni mosque's groundskeeper into the building to persuade those inside to come out after they refused calls on loudspeakers, the military said.
"About 20 left the mosque and stated there was no one left in the mosque. This was not true," said Lt Col Michael Donnelly, a military spokesman for northern Iraq. He said those 20 had been detained.
Troops spotted gunmen on the roof so the missile was fired at the building, Donnelly said, adding that attack helicopters spotted three suspects running from the mosque but did not fire on them.
The wounded soldier was treated for superficial injuries and returned to duty, the military said.
A police officer and a witness, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they feared retribution, said US troops stationed near the mosque came under fire before sunset prayers and the raid occurred as worshippers left the building after the services. The missile left a hole in the minaret, they said. The military said the roof of the mosque sustained only minor damage.
Mindful of the sensitivities surrounding places of worship, US forces generally avoid directly raiding mosques in Iraq, instead providing a cordon while allied Iraqi security forces search the buildings. But the military claims Shia and Sunni militants take advantage of the reluctance to use mosques as hideouts or as storage for weapons caches.
"These insurgents displayed total disregard for the community by using a mosque, a sacred place for Muslims worship, as a sanctuary to commit their acts of terror," said Maj. Mike Garcia, spokesman for the 4th Stryker Brigade Combat Team.

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