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Iraqi army shows force in Basra militia bastion

Iraqi soldiers secure a street in a militia stronghold that has seen some of the fiercest fighting in the southern city of Basra.

Associated Press

Iraqi soldiers secure a street in a militia stronghold that has seen some of the fiercest fighting in the southern city of Basra.

BAGHDAD — Iraqi soldiers rolled through a Shiite militia stronghold in Basra on Wednesday, drawing scattered bombs and bullets that wounded a camera operator for a U.S.-funded TV station and narrowly missed the commander of government troops in the city.

Followers of anti-American cleric Muqtada al-Sadr accused the army of violating an Iran-ian-brokered agreement that ended last week's fighting, which erupted in Basra and quickly engulfed Baghdad and major cities of the Shiite south.

Those complaints raised concern that fighting could flare again as the Iraqi government and Shiite militias maneuver for control of Basra, the country's oil capital 340 miles southeast of Baghdad and a major commercial center of 2-million people.

Iraqi troops met no significant resistance as a convoy of a dozen vehicles drove Wednesday into the Hayaniyah district of central Basra, scene of fierce clashes last week with Sadr's Mahdi Army fighters. Troops set up checkpoints and searched a few houses before leaving the neighborhood after a couple of hours, witnesses said.

An Iraqi cameraman working for the U.S.-funded Alhurra satellite television station was shot in the leg as he filmed the operation in Hayaniyah.

Later, the camera operator, Mazin al-Tayar, told Alhurra by telephone that the soldiers faced "many roadside bombs and mortar rounds" during the operation, although there were no reports of military casualties.

One of the bombs exploded near a vehicle carrying the local Iraqi army commander, Lt. Gen. Mohan al-Fireji, but caused no injuries, according to Defense Ministry spokesman Mohammed al-Askari, who was traveling with the general.

The Basra joint operations center announced that Iraqi soldiers had detained two suspected militia figures in the Qibla area. A gunbattle erupted during the raid, and an Iraqi army vehicle was set on fire.

Nevertheless, Basra's provincial governor, Mohammed al-Waili, said that the overall situation in the oil-rich city was "very calm and stable" and that normalcy was returning. But Basra residents contacted by telephone said many people were fearful that the truce might not last.

Iraqi army shows force in Basra militia bastion 04/02/08 [Last modified: Wednesday, November 3, 2010 11:26am]

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