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Iraqis Give Basra Thugs 3 Days To Surrender

From those allies of terror at the Associated Press:

Iraqi police takes a defensive position in Basra, Iraq, 550 kilometers (340 miles) southeast of Baghdad, Iraq, Tuesday, March 25, 2008.

Iraqi PM gives Basra gunmen ultimatum

By QASSIM ABDUL-ZAHRA, Associated Press Writer

BAGHDAD – Iraq’s prime minister on Wednesday gave gunmen in the southern oil port of Basra three days to surrender their weapons and renounce violence as clashes between security forces and Shiite militia fighters erupted for a second day.

Suspected Shiite extremists also unleashed rockets or mortars against the U.S.-protected Green Zone in central Baghdad for the third day this week.

Three Americans were seriously injured in the attacks, U.S. Embassy spokeswoman Mirembe Nantongo said. At least eight Iraqis also were killed after rounds fell short in several areas of Baghdad.

At least 55 people have been killed and 300 wounded in Basra and Baghdad after the fighting spread to the capital’s main Shiite district of Sadr City, police and hospital officials said.

Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki was in Basra to supervise a crackdown against the spiraling violence between militia factions vying for control of the center of the country’s vast oil industry located near the Iranian border.

The violence has raised fears that the cease-fire declared in August by Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr could unravel, presenting the gravest challenge to the Iraqi government in months.

Sadiq al-Rikabi, a chief adviser to al-Maliki, said gunmen in Basra who turn over their weapons to police stations and sign a pledge renouncing violence will not face prosecution.

"Any gunman who does not do that within these three days will be an outlaw," he said.

A resumption of intense fighting by al-Sadr’s Mahdi Army militia could kill more U.S. soldiers and threaten — at least in the short run — the security gains Washington has hailed as a sign that Iraq is on the road to recovery.

Officials in al-Sadr’s headquarters in Najaf, speaking on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue, said the anti-U.S. cleric had sent local representatives to ask al-Maliki to leave Basra and resolve the problems peacefully. The aides also told the government no negotiations could be held until Iraqi reinforcements withdrew from the city

The White House welcomed al-Maliki’s actions in Basra.

"This is exactly what we all want to see, which is the government of Iraq taking the initiative that was afforded to it by the surge and going aggressively after illegal criminal gangs and illegal militias in the Basra region," said White House spokesman Tony Fratto.

Gunfire echoed through the streets of Basra as Iraqi soldiers and police fought the Mahdi Army, police said.

AP Television News video showed militia members in fierce street battles with security forces. Tanks rumbled in the background as gunmen exchanged rocket-propelled grenade and machine gun fire. They also danced in the streets and around burned out Iraqi military vehicles…

British forces turned over responsibility for Basra to the Iraqis in late December but say they will assist the Iraqis upon request.

Hundreds of Sadr City residents took to the streets on Wednesday, demanding the government stop military operations in Basra and other cities and withdraw all security forces…

So much for Mr. Sadr’s promise of a ceasefire.

The violence has raised fears that the cease-fire declared in August by Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr could unravel, presenting the gravest challenge to the Iraqi government in months.

Do tell.

The US and Iraqis have pussyfooted for about five years too long about this.

This article was posted by Steve on Wednesday, March 26th, 2008. Comments are currently closed.

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