In a separate incident, a woman was killed and a male nurse shot dead in in Mosul. The woman died when an armed man opened fire randomly inside a central bus terminal. The nurse was killed in a raid on a private clinic in the neighbourhood of Qahira, a Mosul police spokesman said.

Another two unidentified bodies were found in Mosul, the police said.

 

In the Iraqi capital, four civilians were wounded in two roadside bomb attacks, one of which also ruptured a water pipe supplying the Shia district of Sadr City, an Iraqi security source said.

 

A civilian was killed and three wounded in the south of Baghdad, when a car rigged with explosives blew up at a petrol station in Mahmudiyah, an interior ministry source said.

 

In what has become a constant curse in sectarian-torn Iraq, the bodies of nine men aged between 20 and 30 were discovered in and south of Baghdad, their hands cuffed and their eyes blindfolded, police sources said.

 

Shootings, mortar attacks and bombings took 14 other lives nationwide on Wednesday.

Government crackdown

 

Nuri al-Maliki, the Iraqi prime minister, has told Mahdi Army fighters on Wednesday that they must surrender their arms or face an all-out assault by US-backed Iraqi forces, senior Iraqi officials have said. Al-Maliki said that there will be no escape from attack. 

A senior Shia legislator and close al-Maliki adviser told the Sadrists (the political movement that supports the Mahdi Army): "If we want to build a state we have no other choice but to attack armed groups."
 
The pledge is exactly what Washington wants to hear on the day that Bush is to announce plans to send 21,500 troops to Iraq to aid
Iraqi troops as they prepare for an operation aimed at securing Baghdad and stamping out sectarian violence which is plaging the capital.


New offensive

An Iraqi general, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the details of the new plan had not been released, said a mainly Kurdish force from one of the northern Iraqi brigades would be sent into Sadr City, the Shia slum in northeast Baghdad that is headquarters of the Mahdi Army.

The general said Kurds, who are Sunni but not Arab, were being used against the Shia Mahdi Army to overcome the predicted refusal by soldiers from other Iraqi units to fight fellow Shias.

The primary target of the campaign to emasculate fighters would focus on the Shia Mahdi Army and the Sunni fighters believed to be aligned to  al-Qaeda in Iraq and two of its allied groups, the Ansar al-Sunnah Army and the Omar Brigade, the general said.

 

Reshuffle

Al-Maliki has named an Iraqi general who was taken as prisoner of war by US troops during the 1991 Gulf war as the overall commander of the new security operation.

Lt. Gen. Aboud Gambar, a Shia, will have two assistants, one from the police and one from the army, the military officers said on condition of anonymity because they were not authorised to reveal the information.

Gambar will report directly to al-Maliki, the commander general of the armed forces.

Source: Agencies