November 19, 2007

Crackdown in Diwaniyah

US and Iraqi troops have arrested dozens of militants loyal to radical Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr in a massive crackdown in the central city of Diwaniyah. Hussain al-Buderi, a member of the Qadisiyah provincial council, said that 49 militants, including four leaders, from the Sadr group were arrested since Saturday when Operation Lion's Leap was launched targeting Shiite militants. The city of more than one million people was under curfew and US aircraft were dropping leaflets urging locals to cooperate in locating militant hideouts.

Sadr's office in the town of Nafar, south of Diwaniyah, was also raided as part of the crackdown. The assault also led to the dismissal of 70 policemen, including some officers. In the past one year, Diwaniyah, capital of Qadisiyah, has seen an intense turf war between Sadr's faction and another Shiite rival, the Supreme Iraqi Islamic Council (SIIC), led by powerful politician Abdel Aziz al-Hakim. The groups have turned the city into a battleground despite a peace deal announced by the two in October.

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