Friday, March 28, 2008

a turn for the worse in Basra

US jets drop bombs in Basra


BAGHDAD - U.S. warplanes carried out at least two airstrikes overnight in Basra for the first time since clashes between Shiite militias and Iraqi security forces erupted in the southern oil port this week, a British official said Friday.

Shiite militants also clashed with government forces for a fourth day in Iraq's oil-rich south and sporadic fighting broke out in Baghdad, despite a weekend curfew in the capital.

Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has promised "no retreat" in the fight against militias in Basra despite growing anger among followers of radical Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr and his Mahdi Army.

The crackdown has intensified Sadrist anger over recent raids and detentions. They say U.S. and Iraqi forces have taken advantage of their seven-month-old cease-fire to target the movement.

Al-Sadr on Thursday called for a political solution to the burgeoning crisis and an end to the "shedding of Iraqi blood." But the statement, released by a close aide, stopped short of ordering his Mahdi Army militia to halt attacks.




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