Deal struck to end Baghdad fighting

Iraqi government and Sadr group confirm pact amid launch of army offensive in Mosul.

    Two million residents of Baghdad's Sadr City area have been caught in a battle zone for weeks now [AFP]

    Ali al-Dabbagh, the Iraqi government spokesman, said the authorities support the agreement and "calls upon everybody to commit themselves" to it.
    "The agreement contains 14 points representing the government's vision to end public displays of arms, clean Sadr City of bombs, and enforce law in Sadr City," he said.
    Al-Dabbagh further said the accord gave powers to the security forces to "raid and search any place it suspects there are heavy and medium weapons" in Sadr City.
    There was no immediate comment from the US military.
    The clashes in Sadr City began in late March after Nuri al-Maliki, the Iraqi prime minister, launched a crackdown against the Shia armed groups in the southern city of Basra.
    Aid groups say at least 6,000 people have fled their homes in Sadr City to escape the fighting and seek help as food and medical supplies dwindle.
    Disbanding ruled out
    Al-Obeidi, who took part in the negotiations conducted in Baghdad, said the two sides had reached agreement on most issues.
    "The two groups agreed on 10 of the 14 points discussed. The agreed points do not include disbanding of Jaish al-Mahdi," he said, referring to the group's al-Mahdi army militia.
    Al-Obeidi said: "The agreement stipulates that the government's security forces have the right to make raids and searches [in Sadr City] for those who are wanted but by following the principles of human rights."
    Al-Maliki's government is dominated by Shia parties that want al-Mahdi army to be disbanded before provincial  elections in October.

    Al-Sadr's group argues that it needs its weapons for self-defence as long as other Shia and Sunni groups backed by the US military and al-Maliki's government retain their weapons.

    Continued clashes

    The news of the agreement was announced by al-Obeidi amid continued fighting in Sadr City, with two hospitals reporting the deaths of at least 13 people in addition to 77 wounded.
    Women and children were among the wounded, the hospital's officials said.

    Separately, the US military said it had killed eight fighters in different districts of Baghdad on Friday.
    It was unclear if any of those were among the bodies received by the Sadr City hospitals.

    The deaths brought to 33 the total number of armed men that US forces said they had killed in Baghdad on Thursday and Friday.
    Ninawa offensive
    In other news, Iraqi military officials said on Saturday that soldiers backed by the US military had launched a "new phase" in the army's operations against al-Qaeda in Iraq in the northern province of Ninawa, bordering Syria and Turkey.
    General Riyadh Tawfiq, commander of the Iraqi military's Ninawa operations, said that the security plan, codenamed Operation Lion's Roar, was aimed at hunting down anti-government fighters.
    The authorities have placed Ninawa under curfew since Friday night. Mosul is the province's main city.

    "This Iraqi-planned and Iraqi-led series of operations continues to be closely supported by coalition forces," a US military official said.
    There were no immediate reports of arrests or casualties.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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