BAGHDAD — Followers of rebel cleric Muqtada al-Sadr agreed late Friday to allow Iraqi security forces to enter all of Baghdad's Sadr City and to arrest anyone found with heavy weapons, in a surprising capitulation that is likely to be hailed as a major victory for Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki.
In return, Sadr's Mahdi Army supporters won the Iraqi government's agreement not to arrest Mahdi Army members without warrants, unless they were in possession of "medium and heavy weaponry."
The agreement would end six weeks of fighting in the Shiite Muslim area that's home to more than 2-million residents and would mark the first time that the area would be under government control since Saddam Hussein was toppled in 2003. On Friday, 15 people were killed and 112 were injured in fighting, officials at the neighborhood's two major hospitals said.
Also Friday, the U.S. military denied that the leader of al-Qaida in Iraq, Abu Ayyub al-Masri, had been captured, saying a man with a similar name had been arrested in the northern city of Mosul.
"Neither coalition forces nor Iraqi security forces detained or killed Abu Ayyub al-Masri. This guy had a similar name," said Maj. Peggy Kageleiry, a U.S. military spokeswoman.