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Fighting eases as Sadr backs off threat of war

BAGHDAD — The U.S. military reported a relative lull in fighting Saturday, a day after radical Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr said his threat of an "open war" applied only to American-led foreign troops.

Still, at least 12 Iraqis were wounded Saturday in sporadic clashes in the sprawling slum district of Sadr City, a stronghold of Sadr's Mahdi Army militia, officials said. No U.S. or Iraqi troop casualties were reported.

The injured in Sadr City included a schoolboy wounded by a stray bullet that pierced his school bag, health officials said. Elsewhere in Baghdad, two separate bombings killed three people and injured 19, including 10 police officers, officials said.

The lull in fighting came after Sadr called Friday for an end to Iraqi bloodshed and said his threat of an "open war" applied only to U.S.-led foreign troops, stepping back from a full-blown confrontation with the government over a crackdown against his followers.

Sadr's appeal won support of some residents of Sadr City who also have been facing shortages of food and supplies.

"He wants this city to be stable, taking into consideration that the people are suffering from the deteriorating situation and from escalating prices," said 42-year-old Naji Mohammed, a father of three.

"In general, people in Sadr City are very happy about this decision. I think Mahdi Army elements are also happy about it, but till now the situation has not changed yet in Sadr City," he added.

Other residents were worried about factions within the Mahdi Army who may not be willing to observe the cease-fire. U.S. authorities claim that "special forces" trained by Iran are operating within the ranks of the Mahdi Army.

Sadr's militia has clashed daily with U.S.-backed Iraqi security forces since Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki launched a crackdown against the militias a month ago. Earlier this month, Sadr issued what he called a "final warning" to the Shiite-led government to halt its offensive or face an "open war until liberation."

During the past month, the Mahdi army has regularly lobbed rockets and mortar shells at the fortified Green Zone that houses foreign embassies and the Iraqi government. But the U.S.-led forces said they have largely pushed them out of effective range of the area.

"I'm seeing that basically since we took over south Sadr City the rocket and mortar attacks have become a lot less effective," said Lt. Col. Steve Stover, military spokesman for U.S. forces in Baghdad.

The latest

• Iraq's Sunni Arab vice president on Saturday called the return of his boycotting political bloc to the Shiite-led Cabinet a priority, saying the government needs to reconcile quickly to "save Iraq." Vice President Tariq al-Hashemi's comments were the latest to signal readiness by the main Sunni bloc, the National Accordance Front, to rejoin the government after an absence of nearly nine months.

• Turkish warplanes and artillery units on Friday and Saturday struck Kurdish rebels in northern Iraq who were preparing to cross the border to carry out attacks, the military said. There was no word on casualties, but the military said it had taken care not to harm the local civilian population there.

>>fast facts

The latest

• Iraq's Sunni Arab vice president on Saturday called the return of his boycotting political bloc to the Shiite-led Cabinet a priority, saying the government needs to reconcile quickly to "save Iraq." Vice President Tariq al-Hashemi's comments were the latest to signal readiness by the main Sunni bloc, the National Accordance Front, to rejoin the government after nearly nine months of division.

• Turkish warplanes and artillery units on Friday and Saturday struck Kurdish rebels in northern Iraq who were preparing to cross the border to carry out attacks, the military said. There was no word on casualties, but the military said it had taken care not to harm local civilians there.

Fighting eases as Sadr backs off threat of war 04/26/08 [Last modified: Thursday, October 28, 2010 1:26pm]
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