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Food, drugs run short in Sadr City, Red Cross says

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  • NEW: U.S. soldier killed in small-arms attack; U.S. death toll at 4,047
  • Fighting in Shiite neighborhood leaves main market in ruins, agency says
  • Hospitals in area run out of anesthesia and dressing supplies
  • Red Cross supplies 10,000 liters of drinking water daily to Sadr City
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BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) -- Weeks of fighting in Baghdad's Sadr City neighborhood have destroyed the main market and isolated civilians from supplies of food and water, the International Committee of the Red Cross warned Wednesday.

Iraqi women gather around a relative injured by a bullet at a hospital in Baghdad's Sadr City on Sunday.

In addition, several hospitals in the predominantly Shiite neighborhood have run out of basic medical supplies, including anesthesia and dressings, the Red Cross said.

The Red Cross said Sadr City's largest market, al-Jamila, "used to provide enough supplies to cover everyday needs" before it was destroyed in the recent fighting.

"People are now short of food, especially as prices of fresh vegetables have increased considerably," it said.

The Red Cross managed to deliver 24,000 ready-made meals to Sadr City on Wednesday, as well as stock Sadr City General Hospital and two other hospitals with three tons of medical supplies, including anesthetics and intravenous infusion equipment. The relief agency continues to supply 10,000 liters of drinking water daily to the city.

There was a brief lull in fighting Saturday, the Red Cross said, but it was not enough time to allow residents to stock up on basic supplies or seek medical care.

Shiite militants fired nearly 700 rockets and mortar shells at coalition forces and Iraqi civilians in the Iraqi capital during a four-week period ending this past weekend, a U.S. military official said Wednesday.

Of those attacks, more than 100 targeted Baghdad's International Zone, the heavily fortified district also known as the Green Zone that houses American and Iraqi governmental offices, according to Col. Allen Batschelet, chief of staff for Multi-National Division-Baghdad.

More than 80 percent of those attacks on the International Zone came from Baghdad's Sadr City neighborhood, he said.

U.S.-backed Iraqi forces are battling Shiite militants in Sadr City, a stronghold of anti-U.S. cleric Muqtada al-Sadr.

According to the U.S. military, fighting in Sadr City decreased after al-Sadr issued a cease-fire March 30, but it still remains high. The cease-fire was issued days after Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki launched a military operation against Shiite militias in the southern city of Basra, which has remained relatively quiet since the truce.

But fighting in Sadr City has continued to rage. From late Tuesday into Wednesday, 19 have been killed in the Baghdad neighborhood, according to Iraqi officials.

Al-Sadr's supporters have accused al-Maliki's government of not holding up its end of the cease-fire, which includes freeing non-convicted prisoners from the Sadrist movement and halting "illegal" raids on the cleric's followers.

On Saturday, al-Sadr issued a "last warning" to the government and told his followers to fight the "occupier" in Sadr City.

This week, the U.S. military started building a two-mile (3 km) wall along Quds Street in Sadr City, and Batschelet said it has already prevented "special groups" from firing multiple rockets toward the International Zone.

"Special groups" is the U.S. military term for rogue elements supported by Iran, which Washington accuses of stirring up conflict among Iraq's Shiite Muslim majority. Those groups pose the greatest long-term threat to Iraq's stability and are responsible for 73 percent of the attacks over the past year, Batschelet said.

Also, in the past 24 hours in Iraq:

• The FBI said Wednesday it had positively identified the body of Jonathon Cote, 25, a U.S. contractor missing since November 16. Cote's body was recovered near Basra in southern Iraq on Saturday. He was kidnapped along with four other American security contractors and an Austrian co-worker during an ambush in the southern Iraqi town of Safwan. The bodies of the other five were recovered in March.

• A U.S. soldier was killed in a small-arms attack Wednesday while his patrol was conducting operations in eastern Baghdad, the military said. He was assigned to Multi-National Division-Baghdad. The death brings to 4,047 the number of U.S. service members who have died since the Iraq war began in March 2003.


• A suicide bomber detonated inside a currency exchange store in Mosul, according to police in the northern Iraqi city. When police arrived, a parked car bomb exploded about 50 yards from the store. Nine people were wounded in the two explosions.

• Another parked car bomb targeting a police patrol detonated in Mosul, also wounding nine people, including four police officers, according to Mosul police.

• Turkish jets Wednesday shelled a mountainous area along the Iraq-Turkey-Iran border where Kurdish rebels have a presence, according to the Kurdistan Workers Party. There were no immediate reports of casualties. E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

All About Sadr CityMuqtada al-SadrNuri al-Maliki

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