Saturday, May 10, 2008

Sadrists Strike Deal to End Fighting

Alalam reports:

BAGHDAD, May 10--The movement of anti-American cleric Moqtada al-Sadr said Saturday it had reached an agreement with Iraqi officials to end weeks of fighting in Baghdad.

Sheikh Salah al-Obeidi, the spokesman for the cleric's office in the central shrine city of Najaf, said the deal reached with a government delegation would be effective from Sunday.

"This agreement will be executed from tomorrow. The Sadr movement has agreed to the contents of the deal and it has now become an official document," he said.

The Sadrist official said the two sides had reached agreement on "10 of the 14 points discussed," which did not include disbanding of Sadr's Mahdi Army fighters.

He took part in the negotiations leading to the clinching of the deal in Baghdad.

Security and medical officials said on Saturday US troops killed 25 Iraqis in the past two days in the Baghdad slum Sadr City.

A medical source at the Al-Sadr hospital said those killed were all men while there were women and children among the wounded.

Hospitals in Sadr City said they had received 13 bodies and treated 77 wounded by Saturday morning, but gave no further casualty figures after that.

They said the US military used airstrikes and tanks to attack the slum.

In one operation, US troops killed 11 Iraqis after they came under attack by unknown gunmen.

Since March 25, US and Iraqi forces have been battling gunmen in Sadr City. Hundreds of people have died.

The Sadr movement had defied calls to lay down arms, saying it needs its weapons for self-defense until other groups nurtured by the US military and the Baghdad government are also disarmed.

Aid workers have warned of a looming humanitarian crisis in Sadr City, home to 2 million people.

Moqtada al-Sadr's followers see the raids as an attempt by the US government to sideline the cleric's mass movement before local elections in October.

Sadr threatened last month to scrap a truce he imposed on his Mehdi Army in August.