Wednesday, May 16, 2007


Mahdi Army clashes with Iraqi Army in Nasiriyah

(Reuters) - Clashes between militias loyal to Shi'ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr and Iraqi forces killed eight people and wounded 40 in the southern city of Nasiriya on Wednesday, hospital and police sources said. Saadi al-Majad, director of the Nasiriya hospital, said three Iraqi soldiers were among the dead. A city official who did not want to be identified put the death toll at 10.
A police lieutenant said Mehdi Army militias clashed with Iraqi forces after police arrested two militiamen on Tuesday on suspicion they were members of a team planting roadside bombs. Witnesses in Nasiriya, 375 km (235 miles) south of Baghdad, said the fighting erupted before dawn. Fighting eased by noon after the militias withdrew from the city's centre. Iraq's Shi'ite south has seen less violence than in Baghdad and other areas, but fighting between rival Shi'ite factions and security forces erupts from time to time.
Sadr, an influential cleric and political figure, commands the Mehdi Army militia, which has strongholds in Baghdad's Shi'ite areas and in the south."They burned all the vehicles in front of one of the provincial government buildings in the centre of the city, but the governor was in another building next to it," said Colonel Rahim Ali of the Iraqi police. Police moved quickly to close off roads leading into and out of Nasiriyah and declared a city-wide curfew as they moved to quell the violence.
When the sun rose on Wednesday the parking lot in front of one of the main local administration buildings was filled with the charred shells of scores of vehicles, according to police. Although the Shiite south of the country has seen less fighting than the areas in and around the capital, street fights often break out among rival political parties, many of which have infiltrated the security forces.

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