Iraq PM Threatens Sadrists as Basra Explodes

'Moment of truth' as government battles Shiite militias
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 26, 2008 6:47 AM CDT
Iraqi police takes a defensive position in Basra, Iraq, 550 kilometers (340 miles) southeast of Baghdad, Iraq, Tuesday, March 25, 2008.    (AP Photo)
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(Newser) – As Iraqi government forces battle Shia militants for a second day in Basra, the Iraqi prime minister has issued a 72-hour deadline for insurgents to lay down their arms. In a television broadcast, Nouri al-Maliki warned militants, many of them loyal to the radical cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, to stand down or "face the most severe penalties," reports the BBC. Maliki, and not the American military, is directing the Basra operation.

Fighting goes on in Baghdad, where government troops have moved into militia-controlled areas and rockets have rained down on the Green Zone. But Basra poses the most serious threat of falling into Sadr's control. More than 40 people there have been killed and at least 100 injured, although it remains unclear how many of these are fighters or civilians.