Iraq: Sadrists 'threaten PM with Saddam-like trial'

Baghdad, 28 March (AKI) - The bloc of Iraqi MPs loyal to radical cleric Moqtada al-Sadr's chief whip, Fallah Hasan Shanishel, has warned that prime minister Nouri al-Maliki will be "tried like Saddam Hussein" for his role in an ongoing security operation against Shia militiamen in the southern port city of Basra, pan-Arab daily Al-Hayat reported.

"Al-Maliki and all the members of his Shia alliance will be tried like Saddam Hussein for crimes against civilians - in Baghdad, Babel province [south of Baghdad] and Basra," said Shanishel (photo), cited by Al-Hayat.

"Al-Maliki is committing suicide in Basra. He is carrying out orders from foreign powers and he wants to destroy the Sadrist movement," al-Hayat quoted another Sadrist leader, Sadeq al-Ibadi, as saying.

Al-Maliki has this week been personally coordinating the crackdown against Shia militiamen in Basra. Over 130 people have been killed and 350 injured in clashes across Iraq since Tuesday, when fighting began in Basra and spread to other cities.

Al-Maliki on Friday reportedly extended a Saturday deadline until 8 April for Shia militiamen to hand over their weapons.

The Iraqi interior ministry said at least four people were killed and 18 wounded in clashes that erupted on Friday in the southern Iraqi city of Nasiriya, an al-Sadr stronghold.

Four people died and five were wounded on Friday in a US airstrike in Baghdad's Sadr City neighourhood - another Sadrist stronghold.

Rockets from a US helicoper gunship struck while militiamen had laid down their arms for Friday prayers, Arabic satellite TV al-Jazeera reported.

The fighting threatens to end a seven-month suspension by al-Sadr of his Mehdi army militia, which observers say has been a key factor in the dramatic drop in violence Iraq has seen in recent months.

Al-Sadr launched two uprisings against US troops in 2004.


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