Iraqi army awaits militias’ response to demilitarization offer

June 16th, 2008 - 3:57 pm ICT by IANS  

Baghdad, June 16 (DPA) Iraq’s army will not go ahead with a crackdown on Shia militias in the southern province of Maysan until a government deadline for militiamen to surrender their arms expires, a defence ministry spokesman said Monday. The Iraqi government offered an amnesty to militants in Maysan, who are willing to surrender their arms by Wednesday and offered to buy heavy weapons from them.

More Iraqi troops have been pouring into Amarah, the provincial capital, as the military build-up continues.

But the operation will not be launched until the deadline expires, Mohamed al-Askari, the spokesman for Iraq’s defence ministry said at a press conference.

Similar deadlines offered to Shia and Sunni fighters in the past few months were a prelude to big-scale offensives in Basra, the Sadr City district of Baghdad and the northern Nineveh province.

Amarah, a rural region with marshland in southern Iraq along the Iranian border, is dominated by al-Sadr Bloc movement of radical cleric Moqtada al-Sadr.

The Iraqi government has been alarmed by the city falling under the control of militiamen, mainly from al-Sadr’s Mahdi Army, and becoming the conduit for weapon smuggling from Iran.

Iraqi troops have been deployed around the city, setting up checkpoints and getting ready for orders to launch the crackdown.

Further north, multiple attacks by explosives were launched almost concurrently by suspected members of the al-Qaida in Iraq group on four houses and three vehicles of Iraqi security forces, the Voices of Iraq (VOI) news agency cited the US military as saying.

An Iraqi policeman was killed in one of the attacks and four civilians were wounded, one of them policeman’s child.

The head of the municipal council of the Diyala province, Ibrahim Bajlan, told VOI that 14 female suicide bombers carried out attacks in the province the past six months.

Some of those women bombers were not Iraqi, Bajlan said.

Al-Qaeda plans to send at least 25 female suicide bombers from Hamrin mountains, where the group is hiding, to carry out attacks in Diyala, the official said.

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