US helicopters pounded an area near a Shi'ite mosque with heavy machine-gun fire, killing two militants just ahead of the start of weekly prayer services and outraging preachers loyal to radical Shi'ite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr.
The US military said American soldiers called for support and cordoned off the area after they were attacked by small-arms fire.
After killing two militants, the soldiers searched nearby buildings, found chemicals believed to be bomb-making materials and detained an Iraqi civilian, the military said.
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