Thu, May 15, 2008 - Page 7 News List

Sadr City calms down, skirmishes kill at least five

AP , BAGHDAD

Baghdad’s Sadr City district was largely quiet yesterday, as Shiite fighters appeared to largely respect a ceasefire agreement, while across town a car bomb targeting a Sunni lawmaker killed one person and wounded 20 more.

Hospital officials in Sadr City said five people died and 22 were wounded from skirmishes in the last 24 hours.

But residents said the mostly Shiite district was quiet yesterday and that a ceasefire appeared to be taking hold.

Iraqi officials and radical Shiite fighters signed a deal on Monday to end seven weeks of fighting. But the fragile ceasefire did not start well, and there were reports of scattered fire fights between Shiite militiamen and US troops late on Tuesday.

The US military says a soldier was killed at nightfall on Tuesday when a roadside bomb exploded next to US convoy.

AL-QAEDA IN IRAQ

A senior US commander said yesterday that al-Qaeda in Iraq persists in western Iraq and that recent increase in attacks shows that the group remains a threat.

A group of al-Qaeda fighters recently infiltrated the area, went to the homes of 11 Iraqi police officers and beheaded them and one of their sons.

Marine Major General John Kelly, the commander of US forces in Anbar Province, said it appeared the insurgents crossed from the Syrian border, talked their way through a checkpoint and then went around the town grabbing police individually.

“Al-Qaeda is not defeated. It’s an ideology,” he said. “Al-Qaeda is still operational but in a smaller scale.”

In western Baghdad, a car bomb detonated next to a convoy carrying a lawmaker from the mostly Sunni Islamic Party, Ayad al-Samarrie, but he was not hurt, police said. One civilian was killed and 20 others wounded, including four guards, they said.

The Sadr City fighting and ceasefire in Baghdad have brought into question the authority of anti-US cleric Moqtada al-Sadr.

Sadr, who currently lives in Iran, signed a ceasefire agreement in August, but Shiite militiamen have recently ignored those orders.

SPECIAL GROUPS

Lieutenant Colonel Steve Stover, a military spokesman for US troops in Baghdad, said on Tuesday that the fighting was caused by Shiite factions that have broken with Sadr called “special groups.”

Many are thought to be trained and armed by Iranian forces. Iran denies the allegations.

Nevertheless, pro-Sadr clerics negotiated the new ceasefire and one said on Tuesday it was taking hold and would be enforced.

”We signed an agreement and we are loyal to the agreement we reached,” said Sheik Salah al-Obeidi, an aide to al-Sadr.

“There might be some violations from both sides and we have to try to prevent them,” he said.

Under the deal, Iraqi forces were to take over security in Sadr City yesterday. The deal calls for Iraqi forces to try to refrain from seeking US help to restore order.

US military officials said on Sunday that they would follow the Iraqis’ lead.

The Sadrists rejected calls by Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki to surrender weapons, saying Mehdi fighters have no “medium or heavy weapons.”

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