Iraqi army agrees truce with Shiite militia after deadly clash

Team Infidel

Forum Spin Doctor
Media: AFP
Byline: n/a
Date: 29 August 2006

DIWANIYAH - Iraqi authorities have agreed a truce with a Shiite militia and
calm has been restored in the town of Diwaniyah after a battle which left at
least 28 people dead, military officials said Tuesday.

Under the deal brokered by local Iraqi political leaders, the army will pull
back reinforcements which came from outside the city, while the Mahdi Army
militia will evacuate a district it took control of during the fighting.

"We are now watching the militia withdrawing. They started pulling out early
this morning and they're still going," an Iraq army captain told AFP.

Shops began to reopen in Diwaniyah on Tuesday and water and electricity
supplies were turned back on, as a tense calm returned to the town that lies
180 kilometres (110 miles) south of the Iraqi capital Baghdad.

Under the agreement, Iraqi officials have also agreed to re-examine the case
of a Mahdi Army commander who was arrested at the weekend, he said.

Iraqi army soldiers fought a fierce 12-hour battle with Mahdi Army gunmen in
Diwaniyah on Monday, after the Shiite militia began bringing reinforcements
into town and took control of several neighbourhoods.

Defence ministry spokesman Mohammed al-Askari said that 20 soldiers and 40
militiamen had been killed in the fighting.

Meanwhile, the head of Diwaniyah's health department, Hamid Taathi, sid his
hospitals had received the bodies of eight dead civilians and treated 61
bystanders for wounds received in the fighting.

A security official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said many of the
slain soldiers were shot at close range, execution-style after being
captured by militia fighters.

Polish soldiers from the US-led coalition in Iraq set up blocking positions
around Diwaniyah to prevent militia reinforcements joining the battle, but
were not directly involved in the fighting, a US military official said.

There were no reports of coalition casualties, but a Polish helicopter
gunship came under fire and returned to base damaged, according to a
statement from coalition headquarters.

The Mahdi Army is a loosely-organised militia group nominally loyal to the
radical Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, whose movement has ministers in
Iraq's coalition government and a large parliamentary bloc.

Sadr supporters outside Diwaniyah have, however, blamed Tuesday's fighting
on "inflitrators" working without their leader's approval.