34 killed in clashes between Shiite militia, Iraqi forces in southern Iraq

Team Infidel

Forum Spin Doctor
Media: The Associated Press
Date: 28 August 2006

DIWANIYAH, Iraq_At least 34 people were killed and dozens injured in
gunbattles between Iraqi troops and Shiite militiamen loyal to a popular
cleric in this Shiite-dominated city south of Baghdad, officials said

The fighting broke out at about 11 p.m. Sunday when Iraqi soldiers conducted
raids in three neighborhoods to flush out the militiamen and seize weapons,
said army Capt. Fatik Aied.

He said the fighting continued Monday with the militiamen of the Mahdi Army,
which is loyal to the radical, anti-U.S. cleric Muqtada al-Sadr.

Aied earlier said U.S. forces came to the Iraqi army's aid on Monday, but
later amended his comments to say that the Americans did not take part in
the fighting but were patrolling the streets.

The U.S. military command in Baghdad also said it cannot confirm that any
American troops were involved in the clashes.

Dr. Mohammed Abdul-Muhsen of the city's general hospital said 34 bodies were
brought in -- 25 Iraqi soldiers, seven civilians and two militiamen. He said
at least 70 people were injured, but could not immediately give a breakdown.

Fatik said the militiamen used rocket propelled grenades and automatic
assault rifles. At least 10 militiamen were arrested so far, he said.

Sheik Adil al-Ansari, an al-Sadr aide based in Diwaniyah, put the blame on
the army.

"It was an irresponsible act by the Iraqi army when they opened fire on the
volunteers. It (the fighting) is over now and a delegation from the province
will go to meet Muqtada al-Sadr " he told The Associated Press.

"Muqtada al-Sadr ordered the volunteers to calm down, exercise self-control
and resolve the problem " he said.

An indefinite vehicle ban was imposed in the city, said Adnan Abdu-Kadhim, a
member of the provincial council

Diwaniyah, 130 kilometers (80 miles) south of Baghdad, is a Shiite dominated
city where the influence of Mahdi Army has been gradually increasing. It
already runs a virtual parallel government in Sadr City, a slum in eastern

But the government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, a Shiite, has found it
difficult to rein in al-Sadr, whose movement holds 30 of the 275 seats in
parliament and five Cabinet posts.

Al-Sadr's backing also helped al-Maliki win the top job during painstaking
negotiations within the Shiite alliance that led to the ouster of Prime
Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari.

Al-Sadr mounted two major uprisings against the American-led coalition in
2004 when U.S. authorities closed his newspaper and pushed an Iraqi judge
into issuing an arrest warrant against him.

But American forces have also been wary of confronting the Mahdi Army
because of al-Sadr's clout over the government and his large following among
Shiites, who are in a majority in Iraq.