Iraqi authorities clamp weekend curfew on Baghdad to stem Shiite clashes

Other News Materials 28 March 2008 00:35 (UTC +04:00)

( AP )- The Baghdad military command clamped a curfew on the capital late Thursday in a bid to stem fierce fighting between Shiite militiamen and security forces.

No unauthorized vehicles, motorcycles or pedestrian traffic will be allowed on the streets from 11 p.m. Thursday to 5 a.m. Sunday, an aide to the command's spokesman said, speaking on condition of anonymity because he wasn't authorized to release the information.

Iraqi state TV also reported the news, which was announced just over an hour before the curfew was to begin.

The move came as anger mounted among followers of radical Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr over a government crackdown against his Mahdi Army militia in the southern oil port of Basra.

The security operations have sparked protests and deadly clashes in Baghdad and across the Shiite southern heartland.

Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki said Thursday that he's acting against criminal gangs and will not stop the fight until the violence is eradicated in Iraq's second-largest city.

But the Sadrists have accused rival Shiite parties, which control Iraqi security forces, of engineering the arrests to prevent them from mounting an effective campaign after the Iraqi parliament agreed in February to hold provincial elections by the fall.

The events threatened to unravel a Mahdi Army cease-fire and lead to a dramatic escalation in violence after a period of relative calm that had lasted for months.