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Heavy fighting in Iraq

IRNA - Islamic Republic News Agency

Baghdad, March 26, IRNA
Heavy fighting continued for a second day Wednesday in two of Iraq's largest cities, as Iraqi ground forces and helicopters mounted a huge operation to break what the Iraqi government said the grip of the militia controlling Basra.

Iraqi forces clashed with militias in Sadr City, Baghdad suburb.

The fighting threatened to destabilize a long-term truce that had helped reduce the level of violence in the five-year-old Iraq war.

Spokesman for the Iraqi military said 40 people had been killed and 200 wounded in the two days of fighting in the southern city of Basra.

Iraqi prime minister, Nouri al-Maliki, on Wednesday gave gunmen in Basra a three-day deadline to surrender their weapons.

In Basra, American and British jets roared through the skies, providing air support for the Iraqi military.

A British Army spokesman for southern Iraq said that while Western forces had not entered Basra, the operation already involved nearly 30,000 Iraqi troops and police forces.

The scale of the clashes in Baghdad kept many residents home.

Schools and shops were closed in many neighborhoods and hundreds of checkpoints appeared; in some neighborhoods they were controlled by the government and in others by militia members.


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