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Sadr City blast reveals new dangers for U.S.

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"This was the fourth meeting of this district council, led by hard-working Iraqis determined to make a difference and set Sadr City off on the right path. Special Groups are afraid of progress and afraid of empowering the people," said Lt. Col. John Digiambatista, of the US military unit in charge of Sadr City.

The bombing came just one day after two other US soldiers were killed and three others wounded while leaving a similar municipal meeting in the southern outskirts of Baghdad. The gunman was a Sunni Arab. The attack in Sadr City coincides with a major US-Iraqi operation under way in the southern Shiite city of Amara against the Mahdi Army and other militants.

Meanwhile, US forces are still engaged in a relentless pursuit of remaining militia members in Baghdad. They are also spending millions of dollars on community projects and creating temporary jobs for thousands of poor Shiites in a move to counter Sadr's influence.

The creation of walled "safe neighborhoods" all over Baghdad free of insurgent influence has been a cornerstone of the surge in US troops implemented in early 2007 and credited with reducing the levels of violence.

Under a 14-point agreement between the Iraqi government and Sadr's representatives that ended the fighting in Sadr City on May 12, US troops are supposed to be restricted to the area south of Al Quds Street while the Iraqi Army was deployed in the rest of Sadr City to conduct raids and seize weapons.

US military spokesman Lt. Col. Steve Stover says that 94 SG operatives have been arrested since the deal was signed. He says that one-third of those are cell leaders. Iraqi forces operating north of Al Quds have found 313 weapon and munitions caches since May 20, including hundreds of sophisticated roadside bombs, rockets and mortar, and artillery rounds.

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