June 16, 2011

U.S. military helicopters fired on suspected militia fighters in southern Iraq on Wednesday, killing one, in a rare American air strike responding to a rocket attack on an airport, the U.S. military said.

The U.S. response at Basra came at a sensitive time as Baghdad and Washington debate whether American soldiers need to stay past a planned withdrawal at the end of 2011 after they finished combat missions last year.

Basra, the strategic oil hub for the OPEC member country, has been relatively calm in recent years compared to the more restive northern and central parts of the country, where al-Qaeda affiliates are still more active.

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