Friday, February 24, 2006

Shi'ite militia, insurgents clash in Baghdad, Iraqi Security helpless

BAGHDAD (Reuters) - Shi'ite militiamen clashed with gunmen in southern Baghdad on Friday, leaving Iraqi security forces who are trying to enforce a curfew helpless to stop them, police sources said.

They said the clashes were between unidentified gunmen, possibly minority Sunnis, and members of the Mehdi Army militia loyal to firebrand Shi'ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, who called on his followers on Friday not to attack Sunnis or their mosques.

It was not immediately clear if anyone was hurt in the skirmishes in the Saidiya area, which undermined a day-time curfew announced by the government to try to stop violence between Sunnis and Shi'ites on the Muslim day of prayer.

Residents of the religiously-mixed area said they heard heavy and sustained gunfire overnight.


But many thousands of Shi'ites flouted the curfew to throng to mosques in the sprawling Shi'ite slum of Sadr City, in the east of the capital, where support for Sadr runs high.

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