Brits Join the Fight in Basra

US widens its airstrikes, and Sadr tells followers to keep their weapons
By Wesley Oliver,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 29, 2008 11:27 AM CDT
Moqtada Al-Sadr called on his followers to defy government orders to surrender their weapons.   (AP Photo)
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(Newser) – As the Iraqi army struggles to combat militias in Basra, British troops for the first time directly joined the fight, and American forces expanded their bombing beyond the militia stronghold. The Brits, who had previously provided only logistical and air support to the Iraqis, fired on an insurgent mortar team in Bosra, the Telegraph reports. Moqtada al-Sadr, meanwhile, told his soldiers not to surrender their weapons.

The US airstrike hit a militia position north of Basra. "My understanding was that this was a building that had people who were shooting back at Iraqi ground forces," said a US official. Iraqi police are investigating claims of civilian casualties from an earlier US air attack. Iraqi PM Nouri al-Maliki extended a deadline for insurgents to surrender their weapons, but Sadr told his followers to give them up only to an Iraqi government willing to kick out the US.