Updated at 8:49 p.m. EDT, April 4, 2008
Although Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki stopped threatening more crackdowns, he continues his attempt to reassert his power against Shi’ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr and his Mahdi Army. Meanwhile, at least 51 Iraqis were killed and another 37 were wounded in the latest violence. No Coalition deaths were reported.
Yesterday, Prime Minister al-Maliki said he would order more crackdowns against Mahdi Army strongholds; however, today he ordered a “freeze” on raids targeting al-Sadr followers and has offered Mahdi Army members “amnesty” if they give up their weapons. The freeze was an original condition of the truce, but security forces have continued their raids anyway, perhaps because al-Maliki has not backed away from saying that operations in Basra will continue.
From the beginning, the Mahdi Army said they would not relinquish their weaponry, and al-Sadr has told his followers not to hand them over. Instead, they staged peaceful protests today after prayers. Also, al-Sadr has moved next week’s million-strong march from Najaf to Baghdad.
Last week, al-Maliki sent Iraqi forces into Basra under the guise of a “security crackdown” that many analysts believe was actually an attempt to diminish al-Sadr’s power base ahead of elections. Instead of clearing Basra of criminals that have taken over the city, Iraqi troops directly targeted al-Sadr’s followers.
The Mahdi Army briefly ended a seven-month-long, unilateral cease-fire to fight back, dealing al-Maliki a bloody political nose. The government admits to a thousand Iraqi security personnel deserting their posts to either join the militia or just refusing to fight them. Still, hundreds were killed in several cities, including Baghdad, and al-Maliki was forced to accept a truce when it became obvious that the Iraqi Army would not be able to defeat al-Sadr’s militia.
A suicide bomber killed 20 people and at least wounded 30 at a funeral in Hamrin. The funeral was for a Sunni policeman who had been shot last night.
Coalition forces attacked Madhi Army members west of Basra and ordered an air strike during the ensuing clashes. Two children were killed along with another person. The number of wounded was not reported. Not only did th British military did not deny that Coalition troops were in the area, they have officially begun security operations again, after having withdrawn to the Basra airport late last year.
In Hilla, a roadside bomb killed four policemen and injured one other.
A roadside bomb in Mussayab killed three policemen and wounded two others.
A bomb killed a man in Jurf al-Sakhar.
An Awakening Council (Sahwa) member was killed during a drive-by shooting near Samarra.
U.S. forces killed seven suspects and detained 16 more in Basra.
Six suspects were killed and 20 were detained by U.S. forces in northern Iraq.
Two al-Qaeda suspects were captured in al-Rutba.
Three policemen were injured by a roadside bomb in Kirkuk.
Compiled by Margaret Griffis