(dpa) - Iraqi's interior ministry executed 28 criminals and militant cult members in the city of Basra, some 550 kilometres south of Baghdad, media reports said on Monday.
Abdul-Karim Khalaf, department chief in the ministry, told the Iraqi al-Sabah newspaper that the ministry had on Sunday carried out the 28 verdicts issued by Iraq's central criminal court.
"The execution of such criminals is considered as a message to all criminals in Basra," Khalaf was quoted as saying in al-Sabah.
"The message says that law is above all and will not make any exceptions for any one involved in crimes," he added.
Iraqi officials told Deutsche Presse-Agentur that the executed criminals included militants of a Shiite cult known as "Jund al- Samaa". Members of the group are followers of Ahmed al-Yamani, who believed in the return of a hidden imam.
A deadly confrontation in January between Iraqi security forces and al-Yamani's followers in Basra, left at least 40 people dead and 60 injured. Some 300 people were also arrested.
Meanwhile, Iraqi security forces detained a further 400 people for investigation, Khalaf said.
The arrests came as part of a security operation launched by the government and codenamed Charge of the Knights against fighters of radical Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr's Mahdi Army militia and illegal militant groups on March 25 in the southern city of Basra.
Khalaf said that the security offensive does not have a time limit. He added that further inspection operations in which Iraqi troops will be deployed across various areas and districts are planned.
Since the launch of the operation, at least 25 Iraqi security forces were killed and 302 injured, according to Khalaf.
He added that some 1,300 Iraqi police officers were fired for not efficiently contributing to the operation.
Khalaf said Iraqi troops managed to kill 300 militants and wound another 750 during clashes.