Iraqi PM claims Basra 'success'

Deal to end fighting with Shia fighters seem shaky amid sporadic violence.

    Armed al-Sadr followers have been ordered off the streets after a deal with the government [AFP]
    Civilian casualties
    The clashes over the past week - which began with the crackdown in Basra but then spread across Shia dominated areas of the country - made March the deadliest month for six months.

    Your Views

    Should Arab states support Iraqi "resistance"?

    Send us your views

    Figures compiled by the Iraqi interior, health and defence ministries said 923 civilians were killed last month, up 31 per cent from February.  

    Al-Maliki said he had decided to implement a seven-point programme in Basra following "the stability and success of the security plan which achieved the aim of imposing law in the city and restoring normalcy".
    The new plan includes boosting security forces in Basra by recruiting 10,000 new troops, restoring services, imposing a strict check on vehicles without licences, building new houses for the poor and turning government-owned palaces into tourist destinations.

    However, on Tuesday the stability of the deal that ended the fighting looked shaky, with al-Sadr's followers accusing the government of reneging on it promise not to round up its fighters.


    Harith al-Athari, chief of al-Sadr's office in Basra, said the Mahdi Army was being "exposed to random arrests and raids, houses of the members were being burned. This is in violation of what has been agreed upon."

    March was the deadliest month for Iraqi
    civilians since last August [AFP]

    Nasir al-Isawi, a member of al-Sadr's parliamentary bloc, said at least 70 members of the group had been arrested in one neighbourhood of the southern city of Hilla.

    "This is very dangerous and it threatens the deal," he said.

    Iraqi and US officials have insisted that the operation was directed at criminals and rogue Shia fighters rather than the Sadrist movement, which controls 30 of the 275 seats in the national parliament.

    Many analysts have suggested that the crackdown backfired for the government by exposing the weakness of the army and increasing support for al-Sadr's movement.

    "May God bless the families of the martyrs and ask God to give them patience for what God has chosen for them," the Shia leader told
    his followers in a written statement on Tuesday.

    British delay

    The fighting in Basra has also affected British plans to reduce troop levels from 4,100 to 2,500 in the spring.

    "It is prudent that we pause any further reductions," Des Browne, Britains' defence secretary told parliament on Tuesday.

    "It is absolutely right that military commanders review plans when the conditions on the ground change."

    British forces became directly involved in the current fighting for the first time at the weekend.

    They fired upon a mortar position in an area in the north of Basra where Iraqi soldiers had been attacked.

    Basra was taken by British forces in 2003. They later withdrew to a base at the city's airport last autumn, before handing over security to the Iraq army in December.

    SOURCE: Agencies


    Interactive: Coding like a girl

    Interactive: Coding like a girl

    What obstacles do young women in technology have to overcome to achieve their dreams? Play this retro game to find out.

    Heron Gate mass eviction: 'We never expected this in Canada'

    Hundreds face mass eviction in Canada's capital

    About 150 homes in one of Ottawa's most diverse and affordable communities are expected to be torn down in coming months

    I remember the day … I designed the Nigerian flag

    I remember the day … I designed the Nigerian flag

    In 1959, a year before Nigeria's independence, a 23-year-old student helped colour the country's identity.