Sadrists clash with Iraqi, US forces in Basra; Curfews in Shiite cities

The truce between the Mahdi Army and the US military has broken down, putting a question mark over the future of the ‘surge’.

Al-Zaman reports in Arabic that members of the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq (ISCI, formerly SCIRI, led by Abdul Aziz al-Hakim); the Da’wa Party led by Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki; and the Badr Corps paramilitary of ISCI have fled their HQs in Basra and Kut, because of the threat that they will be stormed by Mahdi Army militiamen [seeking revenge for the current offensive], In fact, some such buildings already have been attacked.

Eyewitnesses reported clashes on Tuesday in Sadr City, east Baghdad, led by Mahdi Army militiamen against American and Iraqi forces. The latter had encircled Sadr City, while the Mahdi Army roamed its streets within. The sound of gunfire could be heard, and helicopter gunships were seen hovering above.

Nassar al-Rubaie, a leader of the Sadrist parliamentary bloc, announced that it would boycott parliamentary sessions until the targetting of his people ceased. The Sadrists have 30 seats in parliament.

Also in Baghdad on Tuesday, the Sadrists pursued a campaign of civil disobedience in Karkh and Rusafa to the west of Sadr City.

Al-Zaman says its sources in the Sadr Movement confirmed that the Mahdi Army has gained control of the main road between Amara and Basra, allowing it to cut the government troops off from military supplies.

A statement issued by Sadr said, “we call on all Iraqis to show restraint, throughout Iraq, as a first step. If the government does not respect the demands of the masses, then the second step will be disobedience in Baghdad and the rest of the provinces.”

Eyewitnesses reported that heavy fighting was going on in Basra, in the slum districts of Hayaniya, Five Mile, and Jumhuriya in downtown Basra. Likewise in al-Ma`qal, al-Janinah, and al_Kazirah to the north of the city.

The head of the Sadrist politburo, Liwa’ Sumaysim, said from Najaf. that “Sadr follows the events, and his communiques specify the need to resolve these clashes” . . . through dialogue and negotiation.

Fighting also started back up Tuesday evening in Kut, the center of that governorate.

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