Updated at 9:00 p.m. EDT, Mar. 26, 2008
As clashes continue today in southern Iraq and Baghdad, Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has given the Mahdi Army three days to surrender and turn over their weapons. Overall, 76 Iraqis were killed and 367 more were wounded throughout Iraq. One British and two American soldiers were also killed in separate incidents.
One American soldier was killed this afternoon during a small arms attack in eastern Baghdad. Another U.S. soldier died during a separate small arms attack. Elsewhere today, a British soldier was gunned down.
Fighting between the Mahdi Army and Iraqi security forces backed by U.S. air support left dozens dead and hundreds injured, mostly in Basra and Baghdad. Prime Minister al-Maliki has ordered the militia to surrender; however, the eruption is violence is due to a new security campaign in Basra. There is sentiment in the Mahdi Army that the government is unfairly targeting them and other followers of Shi’ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr.
Last August, al-Sadr ordered his followers to observe a cease-fire, which left them vulnerable to attacks from rival groups, particularly those in government. If the cease-fire dissolves it could mean a long-term increase in violence targeting both U.S. troops and Iraqis. A draw-down in American troops in Iraq could also be at risk. The truce is still in effect so far, and al-Maliki has asked for talks.
Meanwhile, a chief rival group, the Badr Organization, has denied involvement in the fighting and blamed oil smugglers for stoking the situation.
In Basra, another nine people were reported killed and 112 were wounded in the fighting, bringing the two-day total to 40 dead and 200 injured. Four policemen were killed during a rocket attack. Also, seven detainees were injured when a mortar hit their jail.
Clashing occurred in the Baghdad suburb of Sadr City as well, but no casualty figures were released until today. At least 14 were killed there and another 140 were wounded over the last two days. This poor section of the capital is named for al-Sadr’s father, but was formerly known as Saddam City. An IED wounded two civilians at the al-Fallah intersection.
In Baghdad itself, three dumped bodies were recovered. Shelling killed five people and wounded 21 others in the Karrada district. In Risala, four people were killed and 12 more were wounded during mortar attacks. A mortar attack at Beirut intersection left four wounded. Three people were wounded during an IED attack in Saidiya. Three U.S. citizens were injured during a mortar attack on the Green Zone; at least one Iraqi civilian was killed and six other was wounded as well. Mortars fell elsewhere as well, but casualties were not reported in those incidents.
Battles involving the Mahdi Army left two dead and four injured in Shabb and one in Kadhimiya. Mahdi militiamen opened fire and injured five people in al-Kifah and another six on Sadoun Street. Meanwhile, Iraqi security forces killed two suspects and arrested 64 others during routine operations.
In an unconfirmed report from Babel province, U.S. forces left sixty casualties after an air strike.
Battles between the Mahdi Army and security forces in Kut left 18 dead and at least a dozen wounded. A journalist’s home was set ablaze but no casualties were reported. Also, a Katyusha rocket fell on a home, killing three and injuring five members of the same family.
U.S. forces killed five Iraqi civilians, including a judge, and wounded 10 others during an air strike in Tikrit. The injured were all women and children. One of the dead was a 10-year-old girl. In a separate incident, a body bearing torture marks was brought in to the morgue; an Awakening Council (Sahwa) has been implicated in the death.
Two Iraqi soldiers were killed by unknown gunmen in Amara.
Five al-Qaeda suspects were detained in Kirkuk.
A suicide bomber wounded nine Sahwa members at a checkpoint near al-Awjah village.
Compiled by Margaret Griffis