Two killed as new clashes erupt in Iraqi Shiite city
Fierce fighting flared again overnight between Mahdi Army militiamen and Iraqi forces in the Shiite city of Kut in which two people were killed and eight wounded, police said on Saturday.
The clashes continued sporadically Saturday morning, forcing residents of the central Iraqi city to stay indoors, witnesses said.
The latest fighting follows a lull after two days of midweek skirmishes between Mahdi Army fighters and Iraqi and US forces in which at least 17 people were killed, among them five children.
"The clashes broke out when Iraqi forces, backed by the American military, raided the Al Arabiyah and Al Shatiyah neighbourhoods around 11 pm (Friday)," said police Captain Ali Fadhel.
Both neighbourhoods are known strongholds of the Mahdi Army, the militia of powerful Shiite cleric Moqtada Al Sadr, Fadhel said.
Those killed were a policeman and a civilian, while the injured are all civilians, he added.
He said Iraqi troops were supported during the raids by US forces.
Sadr has ordered his militiamen to observe a ceasefire he declared late August and renewed on February 22, but admits there are splits in his movement.
Though the young cleric earlier this month announced he would spend more time on his religious studies, his aides have said he remains in overall control of his militia and has not withdrawn from the political scene.
US military commanders refer to Mahdi Army fighters refusing to lay down their arms as "rogue elements", some of whom they say have crossed into Iran for training. (AFP)
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