BAGHDAD, Iraq – A top aide to anti-American cleric Muqtada al-Sadr was killed in a raid by U.S. troops Wednesday in the Shiite holy city of Najaf, an Iraqi lawmaker said.
The U.S. military, however, said American troops participated in a raid led by Iraqi forces that led to the death of a man with the same name as the aide, Sahib al-Amiri. The military described al-Amiri as a criminal involved in the use of roadside bombs.
Nassar al-Rubaie, the head of al-Sadr's bloc in parliament, said al-Amiri was killed when American forces entered his home at dawn.
"We offer our condolences to the Iraqi people and to the al-Sadr movement for the killing of Sahib al-Amiri, one of al-Sadr's prominent figures," al-Rubaie said. Later Wednesday, mourners carried al-Amiri's coffin, draped in an Iraqi flag, on a funeral procession through downtown Najaf.
Elsewhere, a car bomb killed eight people near an Iraqi army checkpoint in eastern Baghdad, police said.
They said all of the dead were civilians. Ten people were wounded.
The U.S. military described al-Amiri's as "an IED facilitator who conducted illegal activities."
Improvised explosive devices, or IEDs — commonly referred to as roadside bombs — are the leading cause of death for American troops in Iraq.
"The purpose of going after him was because of the illegal activities he was conducting, not because he was associated with any particular group," Maj. Gen. William Caldwell, a U.S. military spokesman, told reporters.
Caldwell said the raid was organized and carried out by Iraqi soldiers, with U.S. help. Some 35 Iraqis and eight U.S. soldiers took part, he said.
"It was an Iraqi-led and planned operation, consistent with the fact that Najaf now has been passed to provincial Iraqi control and U.S. forces don't operate there independently," he said.
Iraqi forces took over responsibility for security in Najaf province on Dec. 20, in the first such handover by U.S. troops. Two other provinces were transferred by Italian and British forces over the summer.
Caldwell said Iraqi troops had wanted to pursue al-Amiri after he took part in an Oct. 2006 IED attack on a police chief in Najaf.
"There was a tremendous amount of information they collected over time on him," he said.