( dpa ) - Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki ordered an end to security operations against the Shiite militia loyal to radical cleric Moqtada al-Sadr Friday to allow militants to lay down their arms.
In a statement issued by the prime minister's office, al-Maliki said the move was aimed at the restoration of security across Iraq.
It would also allow a chance for all militants to lay down arms and hand over their weapons, the statement said, adding that Iraqi families who had left their houses during the attacks would be able to return.
Al-Maliki launched an offensive against fighters of al-Sadr's Mahdi Army militia on March 25 in Basra.
Sadr City in Baghdad, a stronghold of the Mahdi Army, has also been the scene of heavy fighting between joint Iraqi-US troops and the militia.
Hundreds of people were killed in the fighting in Basra and Baghdad.
Earlier, al-Sadr said that the Sadrists were ready to cooperate with the Iraqi forces to clear all criminal gangs from Iraq's cities.
In other news, a suicide bomber killed 20 people including himself, in the funeral procession of an Iraqi policeman in the Saediya area in southern Baquba, police told Deutsche Presse-Agentur dpa.
In total, 26 people were seriously injured in the attack and the death toll is expected to rise, according to the police.
In Baquba's Moqdadiya area, US helicopters struck a location of suspected militants in the early hours of Friday, police sources told dpa.
The air raids killed 20 suspected militants and injured another 24, according to police.
Separately, US military said it killed on Friday seven militants and detained another 16 in separate operations in Basra.
Meanwhile, US air raids hit a vehicle equipped with weapons in Baghdad's al-Hillaf area, killing at least six militants on Friday, a US military statement said.
"After receiving reports of heavy machine gun fire, Coalition forces employed an unmanned aerial vehicle to observe, confirm and conduct the airstrike on the vehicle. Six armed criminals were confirmed killed in the precision airstrike," read the US statement.