Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Iraqi forces enter Sadr's Baghdad bastion

BAGHDAD, May 20 (Reuters) - Iraq's army moved on Tuesday to take control of Baghdad's Sadr City, power base of Shi'ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, in another step to stamp government authority over areas previously outside its control.

A spokesman for Iraqi security forces in Baghdad, Major-General Qassim Moussawi, said soldiers had launched "Operation Peace" in the sprawling eastern Baghdad slum early on Tuesday.

Iraqi soldiers, who previously controlled only the outer perimeter of Sadr City, advanced deep into the poor suburb, home to 2 million people, without meeting any opposition, he said.

"We are taking control of three-quarters of the city. What is left is the final quarter," he said, referring to an area where Iraqi security forces had previously ventured only rarely.

The Iraqi army's goals were to arrest wanted men, disarm insurgents and provide basic services to residents, he said.........

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