Updated at 12:21 a.m. EDT, Mar. 28, 2008
Although the fighting continues in Basra, followers of Shi’ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr in Baghdad instead took to the streets in mostly peaceful protests. The cleric himself has asked for peace talks, but the prime minister is refusing. At least 225 Iraqis were killed or found dead and 538 more were wounded in various incidents across Iraq. Also, the FBI is in possession of three new bodies belonging to kidnapped American contractors, and an American soldier was killed this afternoon by an IED explosion in Baghdad.
Ten of thousands of al-Sadr followers protested peacefully in Baghdad. They are demanding an end to the U.S.-backed Iraqi government headed by Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, who was once championed by al-Sadr, and to his crackdown against the Mahdi Army. The prime minister has said that he will see the crackdown through to the end, even though the Sadrists are asking for peace talks. The demonstrations were held in predominantly Shi’ite neighborhoods, in particular the Sadr City suburb, which was named for al-Sadr’s father. Some analysts believe the crackdown is actually meant to politically cripple the cleric. The Mahdi Army was observing a unilateral cease-fire at the time of the crackdown.
Meanwhile, the casualty totals from the Mahdi Army clashes in Baghdad has risen to 30 people dead and 200 more wounded, upping yesterday’s figures by 16 dead and 60 wounded. Many of the wounded are women and children caught in the crossfire. Four soldiers were wounded during an armed attack in Sadr City. U.S. forces killed two suspects who were launching indirect attacks, and another 24 suspects were killed in and around Baghdad. Also, a spokesperson for the Baghdad Security Plan was kidnapped from his home in the al-Amin neighborhood.
In more violence, three people were killed and 15 more were wounded during a mortar attack on a bus terminal in Karaj Alawy. Two people were wounded by mortar fire in Batawin. Mortars falling on a prison left one dead and four injured. In Ur, one person was killed and two were injured during mortar shelling. A car bomb near a Red Crescent office left no casualties. No casualties were reported as a Dawa Party office in Shabb was set on fire. Three people were injured during separate shelling in Karada. Also, five dumped bodies were recovered.
As many as 29 people were killed and another 39 more were wounded during an air attack by U.S. forces in Hilla. Some unconfirmed reports have placed the number of dead at sixty. In street clashes as many as 30 have been wounded, including women and children.
In Basra, the casualty figures were upped by 60 dead and 300 injured to a total of 100 people killed and 500 others wounded over the last three days. Reports out the city today mention heavy mortar fire and more armed attacks. Last night, a roadside bomb killed three bodyguards working for the city’s police chief. Also, some of the police casualties are being treated in Baghdad.
The totals so far in Kut have been 49 people killed and 75 more injured, adding 31 dead and 63 wounded since yesterday’s preliminary reports.
Four Iraqi soldiers were killed in Daquq when gunmen attacked their checkpoint.
Gunmen attacked an army patrol in near Nasariya in al-Rifai, killing two Iraqi soldiers.
In Kirkuk, a car bomb killed two Kurdish Peshmerga soldiers and wounded six others, including two civilians. These may have been in two separate events.
A roadside bomb killed four policemen and wounded four more in Mahaweel.
Four bodies were found near Balad Ruz.
Outside Muqdadiyah, police have found a mass grave containing 37 bodies. The age of the grave was not given, but it could date from the Saddam era. Mass graves from that period and quite a few recent ones dot the Diyala province.
Also, a main oil pipeline outside Basra was bombed.
Clashes with the Mahdi Army left three policemen dead in Hamza. Another officer was wounded along with two Iraqi soldiers.
In Diwaniya, one gunmen was killed and a policeman was wounded in an operation that netted eight suspects.
Security forces arrested 48 in Karbala.
A roadside bomb in al-Kafl left three policemen dead and another four wounded.
A bomb in Fallujah was defused.
In Amara, a Badr party office was attacked with rocket propelled grenades. A resident of a neighboring structure was injured. Two people were killed and seven wounded in the crossfire during clashes at the Yugoslave Brigde.
A roadside bomb in Khanaquin injured two civilians.
The district office in Khan Bani Saad was attacked but no casualties were reported.
Power plants throughout southern and central Iraq were attacked and left inoperative.
Compiled by Margaret Griffis