Mayor of Baghdad Shi'ite bastion wounded by gunmen

BAGHDAD Fri Mar 16, 2007 10:09am EDT

Shi'ite worshippers chant slogans during a demonstration after Friday prayers in Baghdad's Sadr City, March 16, 2007. REUTERS/Kareem Raheem

Shi'ite worshippers chant slogans during a demonstration after Friday prayers in Baghdad's Sadr City, March 16, 2007.

Credit: Reuters/Kareem Raheem

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BAGHDAD (Reuters) - The mayor of Sadr City, a Shi'ite militia stronghold in Baghdad, was wounded when gunmen opened fire on his car and a senior police officer was killed, Iraqi and U.S. officials said on Friday.

Sheikh Raheem al-Darruji has been a key figure in facilitating a recent U.S. and Iraqi security crackdown in Sadr City, long a no-go area for U.S. forces and a bastion of the Mehdi Army, a militia loyal to radical cleric Moqtada al-Sadr.

An Iraqi police source said Darruji was driving in a private car with Colonel Mohammed Mutashar on Thursday afternoon in the Habibiya district of Sadr City when gunmen in another car opened fire, killing the policeman and wounding the mayor.

The driver of the car was also killed, a U.S. military spokesman said, confirming the attack.

He said the mayor was treated at a U.S. hospital and was in "good condition" on Friday.

"He has been helpful to the coalition and the efforts to establish the joint security station inside of Sadr City," Lieutenant Colonel Scott Bleichwehl said of the mayor.

The Mehdi Army is blamed by Sunni Arabs and Washington for operating death squads that were killing dozens of people every day in Baghdad in the year since the bombing of a Shi'ite shrine in Samarra in February 2006.

But U.S. commanders say they have met no resistance since launching operations in Sadr City 10 days ago, and that Sadr appears to have instructed his followers to cooperate with Iraqi security forces in the crackdown.

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