At least 69 killed, 38 wounded in Iraqi violence
( dpa )- At least 69 people were killed and 38 wounded in separate attacks as intense fighting involving Shiite militants continued across Iraq, while the spokesman of Baghdad's security operations was abducted, media reports said Thursday.
There was also continued fighting in Basra and parts of Baghdad.
Militants have abducted spokesman of Baghdad's security operations Tahseen al-Shekly after attacking his house in Amin district in the Iraqi capital, the Voices of Iraq (VOI) news agency said.
Spokesman of multinational forces told VOI that al-Shekly's brother confirmed his kidnapping.
US air raids struck militants' hideouts in the city of Hillah, some 100 kilometres south of Baghdad, killing 60 militants and damaging houses in the city, VOI said Thursday.
Abdul-Latif Rayan, media spokesman of multinational forces, told VIO that the airstrikes on Hillah came as Iraqi forces requested the help of the multinational forces to fight militants in the city.
Iraqi forces and militants have been intensively fighting in Hillah's Zahraa district since Tuesday, leaving three Iraqi troops wounded.
On Wednesday, Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki set a 72-hour deadline for Shiite militants in to lay down their arms or face "severe penalties".
Mahdi Army leader and Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr - whose organisation is reported to be the main opposition to government troops, has spoken of possible negotiations to end the violence.
In another development, a Kurdish police officer was killed Thursday and six members of the Kurdish security forces were wounded in an explosion in the city of Kirkuk, some 250 kilometres north of Baghdad, VOI said.
A vehicle bomb targeted a Kurdish patrol in Kirkuk's Qods street, killing a police officer and wounding six members of the Kurdish forces.
Medical sources told VOI that Baghdad's Yarmouk hospital had admitted 20 Iraqi troops seriously injured during clashes in Iraq's second-bigggest city of Basra.
The wounded were moved from Basra to Baghdad's airport for treatment, VOI said. Basra's police chief survived from an explosion that targeted his convoy in the late hours of Wednesday, VOI said.
Three of his security guards were killed when a bomb went off in Basra's al-Jabila area. Clashes between Iraqi security forces and Shiite fighters in Basra continued, with at least 40 people reported dead and 200 wounded.
Nearly 30,000 Iraqi soldiers and police officers are involved in a security operation, which is being directed by al-Maliki, who is also the commander-in-chief of the armed forces, according to VOI.
Iraqi troops backed by helicopters have engaged in pitched battles with Shiite fighters since the early hours of Wednesday in many parts of Basra, witnesses told Deutsche Presse-Agentur dpa.
Life in the city has come to a standstill with shops and markets closing and power cuts throwing it into darkness, the witnesses said.
In Baghdad, medical sources told VOI that three civilians were killed during intense clashes between militants and Iraqi security forces on Thursday, after mortar shells fell on a location of Iraqi forces in the city.
Two people were killed and 12 wounded when mortar shells fell in Karaj Alawy area in Baghdad, as two other mortar shells fell eastern the Iraqi capital.
In Baghdad's Sadr City neighbourhood, fighting continued to break out Thursday between Iraqi troops backed by US air support and al- Mahdi Army fighters.
On Wednesday, the fighting had left least 15 people killed and 100 injured, al-Arabyia television reported.