Blasts across Iraq as troops gear up for offensive against Shia militia

June 17th, 2008 - 7:08 am ICT by IANS  

Baghdad, June 16 (DPA) A fresh outbreak of violence across Iraq Monday caused at least five fatalities while Iraq’s army said it would not go ahead with a crackdown on Shia militias in the country’s southern regions until a government deadline for militiamen to surrender their arms expires. The deadliest attack occurred when a bomb went off near a checkpoint manned by members of a tribal police force known as the Awakening Council in the village of Abu-Fayyad near Baquba, 57 km northeast of Baghdad.

Three members of the council were killed and two injured, a local police official said.

Awakening Councils are tribal units set up by local clans in Sunni-dominated areas and backed by the US to fight insurgents from the Al Qaeda group in Iraq.

In Baghdad, a bomb attack near a pedagogy college left one civilian dead and eight injured, a security official said.

The attack, which occurred in the predominantly Sunni Azamiyah district, comes a day after an attack on the technology college in the centre of Baghdad left several people injured.

University students in Iraq are currently writing their final exams.

In the northern city of Mosul, multiple explosions were set off by suspected members of the Al Qaeda on four houses and three vehicles of Iraqi security forces, the Voices of Iraq 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 the policeman’s child.

Rockets slammed into the British base at Basra airport, causing no casualties. But the incident caused the runway to be temporarily closed to civil aviation, local officials said.

Iraqi troops continued to pour into the southern Maysan province ahead of an offensive against Shiite militias.

But a spokesman for the ministry of defence, Mohamed al-Askari, said the army would not go ahead with a crackdown until a government deadline for militiamen to surrender their arms expires.

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.

Amarah, a rural region with marshland in southern Iraq along the Iranian border, is dominated by the 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.

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