At least 25 killed, dozens injured in clashes in Basra

March 25th, 2008 - 11:21 pm ICT by admin  

(Second Lead)
Baghdad, March 25 (DPA) At least 25 people were killed in Iraq Tuesday, including civilians and members of Mahdi militia, and dozens others were wounded in ongoing heavy fighting between the Iraqi forces and militants in the southern city of Basra, security sources said. The sources said that al-Sadr hospital admitted more than 50 of the injured, most of them Iraqi troops and police officers. Sixteen bodies were also taken to the facility.

Mawani hospital, meanwhile admitted 18 wounded people and five bodies. Four militants from the Mahdi Army, a militia loyal to radical Shia cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, were also among the dead.

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’s media office denied there had been any clashes between the Mahdi Army and Iraqi forces, the Voices of Iraq (VOI) news agency said.

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

The Al-Jazeera news channel quoted an al-Sadr spokesman saying that al-Sadr had threatened a civil disobedience if Iraqi forces did not stop its security operation in the city of Basra.

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

Some 50,000 Iraqi troops and police reinforcements are in Basra, supervised by al-Maliki, who is also the general commander of the army, Abdul-Karim Khalaf, spokesman of the Iraqi interior ministry, 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 Shia 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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