The Mahdi Army’s seven-month-long cease-fire appears to have come undone.
Rockets fired from the capital’s Shiite district of Sadr City slammed into the Green Zone Tuesday, the second time in three days, and firefights erupted around Baghdad pitting government and US forces against the militia allied to the influential Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr.
At the same time, the oil-export city of Basra became a battleground Tuesday as Iraqi forces, backed by US air power, launched a major crackdown on the Mahdi Army elements. British and US forces were guarding the border with Iran to intercept incoming weapons or fighters, according to a senior security official in Basra.
The US blames the latest attacks on rogue Mahdi Army elements tied to Iran, but analysts say the spike in fighting with Shiite militants potentially opens a second front in the war when the American military is still doing battle with the Sunni extremists of Al Qaeda in Iraq.
“The cease-fire is over; we have been told to fight the Americans,” said one Mahdi Army militiaman, who was reached by telephone in Sadr City. This same man, when interviewed in January, had stated that he was abiding by the cease-fire and that he was keeping busy running his cellular phone store.
** The battle for Basra: Iraqis fight Mahdi army as British troops remain at base
** Violence erupts in Basra as Iraqi forces battle Mehdi Army
** Baghdad mortuary sees rise in number of corpses
** Canada:Army begins using $150,000 artillery shells in Afghanistan
Previous Updates after the jump. Please post new stories and comments about the coalition’s wars in Iraq and Afghanistan on this thread. (Prior weeks’ Updates here).
US military passes 4,000 death toll in Iraq
The number of US troops killed in Iraq has reached 4,000 with the deaths of four soldiers in southern Baghdad.
The four soldiers were on patrol when their vehicle was struck yesterday at around 10pm local time (7pm GMT) by a roadside bomb.
“You regret every casualty, every loss,” US vice president Dick Cheney told reporters during a visit to Jerusalem after the 4,000 death toll was passed.
“It may have a psychological effect on the public, but it’s a tragedy that we live in a kind of world where that happens.”
** 13 Iraqis Killed by Shells Fired at the Green Zone
** Iraq flag debate still flutters
** More Than 40 Dead in Afghan Violence
** Fuel Trucks for U.S. Forces in Afghanistan Destroyed
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