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UK journalist 'freed in Iraq'

Meanwhile, a British journalist, working for the American network CBS News, has been freed by forces in Iraq in an operation in Basra on Monday.

General Mohammed Askari told Iraqia TV that the Iraqi army's 14th Division was on a raid in the Jebaileh district of Basra.

"We had information about a wanted target in a specific house. We didn't know that the journalist was there, but when the force approached the house they came under fire and as a result we found the journalist."

Richard Butler, kidnapped two months ago in the southern city of Basra, appeared to be in good health and high spirits in the pictures shown on state television.
 
Marketplace fire
 
A further attack on a US military convoy set off a large fire in a marketplace in eastern Baghdad in the early hours of Monday morning.
 
Dozens of stalls were set alight when a bomb exploded near the convoy as it drove down a commercial street in the capital's eastern district.
 
Residents said more than a dozen US and Iraqi firefighting vehicles attended to put out the blaze which continued through the night.
 
The attack comes amid continuing clashes between US and Iraqi forces and fighters loyal to Muqtada al-Sadr, a Shia leader, in the east of the capital.
 
A US military statement said fighters firing rocket-propelled grenades ambushed a US patrol late on Sunday night.
 
Armed helicopters repulsed the attack, killing six of the fighters, the statement said.

Government initiatives


The Iraqi government is demanding that al-Sadr disband his al-Mahdi Army militia which has strongholds in the Sadr City neighbourhood, the port city of Basra and other locations in southern Iraq.

Also on Sunday, Nuri al-Maliki, the prime minister, approved draft legislation barring political parties with militias from participating in upcoming provincial elections.

The government also ordered a crackdown on fighters that control state-run and private petrol stations, refineries and oil distribution centers.

Government officials also announced that it was firing 1,300 soldiers and police who underperformed or deserted during last month's offensive in Basra.