U.S. Forces Come Under Attack by Iran-backed Shi'ite Militia
Iranian-sponsored Shi'ites have launched an offensive in Iraq.
Fighters from the Iran-backed Mahdi Army have attacked Sunni insurgents and both Iraqi and U.S. forces over the weekend in Baghdad. Shi'ite insurgents also struck the southern city of Basra.
The Shi'ite battles came a day after U.S. commander in Iraq, Gen. George Casey, accused Iran of being a leading source of instability in Iraq. Casey said Teheran has provided improvised explosive devices, technology, weapons and training to Shi'ite militias, Middle East Newsline reported. READ MORE
In Baghdad, Mahdi Army operatives fought a gunbattle with Sunni insurgents in Haifa Street, a longtime stronghold of Saddam Hussein loyalists. Iraqi and U.S. forces rushed to the scene and were attacked as well.
Later, the fighting escalated as insurgents launched mortars. Five Iraq Army soldiers and three police officers were injured.
On June 23, Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri Al Maliki, scheduled to release his national reconciliation plan, imposed a curfew on Baghdad in an effort to quell the violence. Officials said the curfew would be extended indefinitely until calm was restored to the capital.
In Basra, at least five people were killed in an explosion at a gasoline station. All of the casualties were reported to have been civilians.
Officials said the weekend battle stemmed from the increasing power of Iraqi militias. On Saturday, U.S. forces arrested in Baghdad a Sunni religious leader, Jamal Eddin Abdul Karim Al Dabban.
"The sheik represents an Islamic and national symbol and these violations could cause the security situation to deteriorate," the Iraqi Islamic Party said in a statement.