Uneasy calm in southern Iraq after bitter fighting


Baghdad : Life was retuning to normal in southern Iraq Sunday after two-day-long clashes between security forces and fringe Shia groups left at least 85 dead and 100 injured, including a security commander.

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The commander of the rapid intervention force in Ziqar province, Colonel Abdel Amir Jabbar, succumbed to his injury sustained in clashes that broke out in Nasiriyah Friday, a police spokesman told Voices of Iraq (VOI) news agency.

At least 50 people were killed, including senior security officers, and 60 injured in the fighting in Nasiriyah, 380 km south of Baghdad, which involved an extremist group loyal to Shia cleric Ahmed al-Yamani, according to VOI.

Further south in Basra, the latest toll in Friday’s fighting rose to at least 35, while the figure for the wounded is 40, according to Basra police chief General Abdel Jalil Khalaf.

The fighting in Basra involved the so-called Soldiers of Heaven – a Shia cult, which fought Iraqi and US forces in the Shia holy city of Najaf last year.

It was not clear whether the group involved in the Nasiriyah fighting has links with the group involved in the Basra clashes. However, Iraq’s National Security Adviser, Muwaffaq al-Rubay, told reporters Saturday “foreign powers” stood behind the bout of violence in southern Iraq.

The official declined to identify who the foreign powers were and said members of the group involved in the fighting were heretics.

Two 14-year-old snipers were among 100 people detained in connection with the Basra violence, according to a security official quoted by the pan-Arab al-Hayat newspaper.

Another security official was quoted by the newspaper as saying the fighters were seeking to control Basra’s oil installations.