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IRAQ: Security worsens in three southern provinces


Fierce clashes have been raging in the cities of Basra, Nasiriya and Diwaniya for the third consecutive day with the government giving conflicting versions for the causes leading to the upsurge in insecurity. The groups fighting government forces and allied militias are still something of a mystery. While the Interior Ministry says they are remnants of the so-called Jund al-Sama (Soldiers of Heaven) other sources close to the government say they are former Baathists and supporters of the former leader Saddam Hussein....

[40341]



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IRAQ: Security worsens in three southern provinces

Abed Battat, Azzaman

January 21, 2008


Fierce clashes have been raging in the cities of Basra, Nasiriya and Diwaniya for the third consecutive day with the government giving conflicting versions for the causes leading to the upsurge in insecurity.

The groups fighting government forces and allied militias are still something of a mystery.

While the Interior Ministry says they are remnants of the so-called Jund al-Sama (Soldiers of Heaven) other sources close to the government say they are former Baathists and supporters of the former leader Saddam Hussein.

Local media decline to describe them as opponents of the government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki as armed opposition on such large-scale from the Shiite heartland would give a clear signal of how shaky his administration is.

Residents from the three cities tell Azzaman that there has been a lot of random shooting in streets and residential areas.

Several police stations have come under attack and reports from Basra alone speak of 97 people killed and 117 injured.

'Jund al-Samaĺ fighters were blamed last year for plans to thwart the annual pilgrimage to the Shiite shrines in Najaf and Karbala.

Government troops aided by U.S. helicopter gun ships attacked the group. In the ensuing battle hundreds of people were killed among them women and children.

The government has imposed tough restrictions on the pilgrims who are forbidden from raising slogans hostile to the authorities ľ a move analysts likened to the constraints Saddam Hussein had in place.

The government has yet to announce the losses inflicted on police and security forces.

In Nasiriya, which was placed under strict curfew for two days, the provincial officials and tribal leaders took part in a funeral procession of "a number of army officers killed in the clashes," a provincial official, refusing to be named, said.



:: Article nr. 40341 sent on 22-jan-2008 06:45 ECT

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Link: www.azzaman.com/english/index.asp?fname=news\2008-01-21\kurd.htm



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