Dozens of fighters ambushed a U.S. patrol in Baghdad's main Shiite militia stronghold Tuesday, firing rocket-propelled grenades and machine gun bursts as the American push into Sadr City increasingly faces pockets of close urban combat.

U.S. forces struck back with 200-pound guided rockets that devastated at least three buildings in the densely packed district that serves as the Baghdad base for the powerful Mahdi Army militia.

Officials at two local hospitals said about 25 people had died and several dozen were wounded — most civilians.

CNN video showed the grieving survivors. "They all died, they all died," one woman wailed. "My son, my son Allawi, I want you back," moaned another.

"There was a girl. We only found her head," said one man, lying wounded on a stretcher. "I kept digging, looking for her body, me and my friends. And then another rocket hit us."

At the hospital, a little girl cried as shrapnel was removed from her face. Nearby, a mother grieved over the body of her young son as a man off-camera asked sarcastically, "Does this look like a militiaman?"

U.S. officials said all precautions are taken to prevent civilian casualties, but blamed the militiamen for taking cover among their neighbors and families.

"The enemy continues to show little regard for innocent civilians, as they fire their weapons from within houses, alleyways and rooftops upon our soldiers," said Col. Allen Batschelet, chief of staff for the 4th Infantry Division in Baghdad.

(with wire services)

This video is from, broadcast April 30, 2008.

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