Baghdad under 24-hour curfew as US is drawn into the violence

London Telegraph
Friday, March 28, 2008

Iraq's government imposed a three-day, 24-hour curfew in Baghdad last night as it struggled to prevent a slide towards civil war with supporters of the radical cleric Moqtada al-Sadr.

The action came after a third day of violence that started with insurgents blowing up a major oil pipeline near Basra. Fighting raged between Shi'ite gunmen and Iraqi security forces in the capital and in towns across the restive south.

For the first time, American forces were drawn into the conflict as they helped the inexperienced troops.

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In Baghdad, thousands of Shi'ites marched in support of Sadr and called for the resignation of Nouri al-Maliki, the Iraqi prime minister, whose drive to purge Basra of Shi'ite militias sparked the unrest.

Repeated rocket attacks on Baghdad's diplomatic Green Zone, the seat of the Iraqi government, left huge plumes of smoke drifting over the Tigris river.

Mr Maliki, whose Shi'ite-dominated government is facing the toughest test of its authority to date, moved to quell the unrest last night.

He ordered that the capital be locked down until Sunday morning with a day and night curfew.

"A curfew on vehicles and people has been imposed in Baghdad from 11pm tonight until 5am on Sunday," said Maj Gen Qassim Moussawi. "This is because of the clashes. We want to protect civilians."

Full article here.

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