12 killed, 26 injured in clashes in Iraq’s Basra

March 25th, 2008 - 8:17 pm ICT by admin  

Baghdad, March 25 (DPA) At least 12 people were killed Tuesday, including civilians and members of Mahdi militia, and 26 others wounded in ongoing heavy fighting between Iraqi forces and militants in the southern Iraqi city of Basra, security sources said. Eight civilians and four soldiers of the Mahdi army, loyal to radical Shia cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, were reported killed, while 26 others were wounded, security sources said.

Intense fighting was reported in Basra, as the Mahdi army attacked a number of security checkpoints, security sources in the Shia-dominated city said.

However, al-Sadr media office denied any clashes between his army and the Iraqi forces, the Voices of Iraq (VOI) news agency said.

Sources told VOI that al-Sadr ordered his militia to hand over Quran copies and olive leaves to the Iraqi soldiers deployed across the Iraqi capital, stressing that there were no clashes between al Sadr militia and the Iraqi troops in al-Sadr city.

Meanwhile, Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki launched a security plan in the southern city of Basra to maintain security and fight militias and gangs in the city.

Some 50,000 Iraqi troop and police reinforcements are in Basra, supervised by al-Maliki, who is also the general commander of the army, Interior Ministry spokesman Abdul-Karim Khalaf told reporters.

Security forces imposed a blanket curfew in the city from the early hours of Monday, while schools and universities did not open Tuesday and would stay closed for a further three days.

The city’s borders were also closed for the coming three days and citizens ordered to hand all weapons to security forces.

Al-Maliki arrived in Basra Monday to inspect the security situation in Iraq’s second largest city where Shiite parties and their militias, and criminal gangs are all locked in a struggle for power.

Several US military aircraft have landed at Basra airport, witnesses said Tuesday.

The US military reported that five extremists were killed overnight by coalition troops near Basra as they prepared a bomb.

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