Iraqi premier pledges offensive against ‘outlaws’

April 3rd, 2008 - 11:51 pm ICT by admin  

Baghdad, April 3 (DPA) Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki said Thursday the next few days would see crackdowns against criminals in areas under their control, and urged the political group of Shia cleric Moqtada al-Sadr to rid itself of outlaws. More violent attacks were, meanwhile, reported across Iraq.

Al-Maliki launched an offensive codenamed Charge of the Knights against fighters of al-Sadr’s Mahdi Army militia March 25 in the southern city of Basra.

Speaking at a news conference, al-Maliki said there were areas in Baghdad that needed a Charge of the Knights to clear them of criminal gangs.

“Outlaws should return to their senses and leave people in Sadr City, Shula and Kazimiyah to live in freedom,” al-Maliki was quoted as saying by the Voices of Iraq (VOI) news agency.

Sadr City, Shula and Kazimiyah - all Mahdi Army strongholds in Baghdad - have seen deadly clashes between government troops and al-Sadr’s loyalists in the wake of the launch of the Basra crackdown.

“There will be battles in the next days in areas that have fallen hostage to those gangs,” the premier vowed.

Speaking at another press conference Thursday, al-Maliki said the Basra offensive did not target any political group but criminals committing thefts and smuggling.

He urged al-Sadr, who called his fighters off the streets Sunday, to clear his militia of outlaws.

Meanwhile, violence continued to flare in Basra, where US air strikes destroyed a house in the Kobla district Thursday. According to earlier reports the attack killed four civilians.

Earlier reports said night guards by mistake opened fire on a US patrol early Thursday in Jamiyah, a district in the city centre.

Later, a US gunship shelled the scene of the shooting, killing five policemen and injuring 11, including two women in their homes, the officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, said.

Separately, seven people were killed and 12 injured in a suicide bombing in the northern city of Mosul last night, VOI reported.

A suicide bomber blew up a car near a checkpoint in west Mosul, General Khaled Abdel-Sattar, an army spokesman in Nineveh province, told VOI.

A woman and a child were among the dead, five children and three soldiers among the wounded.

In Baghdad, Iraqi police told VOI that a civilian was killed and another seven were wounded when a car bomb was remotely detonated in Harethiya district.

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