Iraqi PM Maliki orders freeze on government attacks on Shiite militias

Thursday, April 3, US helicopter strikes killed 5 people in Hilla and destroyed a house in Basra. Shiite cleric Moqtada Sadr called for a million-strong march in the shrine city of Najef against US “occupation” on April 9, the fifth anniversary of the fall of Baghdad.
Iraq’s death toll of 1,082 was 50 percent higher in March than February – boosted by hundreds killed in Basra.
While most victims were civilians, a higher proportion of Iraqi combatants -102 policemen and 54 soldiers – were killed. Some died in the six days of intense fighting in the southern oil town of Basra between government troops and militiamen; but many civilians were caught in the crossfire.
The fighting in the South appears to have abated since Moqtada Sadr ordered his Shiite Mehdi Army militiamen off the streets in return for an government amnesty. The pause cut short Shiite-versus-Shiite strife which spread to other cities in the south and to Baghdad marking Iraq’s Shiite prime minister Nouri al-Maliki’s failure to dislodge the militias from their strongholds.
debkafile reports: The prime minister may be held accountable for a venture which placed the cohesion of the ruling Shiite bloc at risk and strengthened Iranian influence. Moqtada Sadr is already capitalizing on his militia’s success in warding off the government offensive.

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