Sadrists Resist Crackdown, Demand Maliki's Ouster

Intra-Shiite battle pounds on in Basra
By Jason Farago,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 27, 2008 6:25 AM CDT
Smoke rises during clashes between the Mahdi Army and government forces in Basra, Wednesday, March 26, 2008.   (AP Photo)
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(Newser) – Followers of Muqtada al-Sadr marched in Baghdad today, denouncing Nouri al-Maliki's US-backed government as non-representative, while the onslaught in Basra continued for a third day. Explosions were heard in the city every 10 to 15 minutes and more than 100 are already dead, Reuters reports. Residents of Iraq's second-largest city, the capital of oil production, have described the fighting as the worst since the 2003 US invasion.

"We have been living for the last hours in hell," said one young Basra resident taking shelter under a staircase. The fighting pits Shiites against Shiites, with American and other foreign forces almost totally absent. The Sadrists claim that the government crackdown is an attempt to prop up a weak prime minister and hurt the radical cleric's followers ahead of local elections later this year.