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The Iraqi government has dismissed about 1,300 soldiers and policemen who deserted or refused to fight during last month's offensive against Shiite militias and criminal gangs in Basra, officials said Sunday.
Interior Ministry spokesman Maj. Gen. Abdul-Karim Khalaf said 921 police and soldiers were fired in Basra.
Last month, Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki ordered the security forces to confront armed groups in Basra, Iraq's second largest city.
But they met fierce resistance and the attack quickly ground to a halt as fighting flared across the Shiite south and Baghdad.
Since then, government officials have revealed that about 1,000 members of the security forces — including an entire infantry battalion — had mutinied, on some cases handing over vehicles and weapons to the militias.
They're all going to have different opinions too, because they are what we call 'people'.
Khalaf said that 500 soldiers who have been absent without leave since the campaign ended on March 30 had also been dismissed and would be tried by military courts.
"Some of them were sympathetic with these lawbreakers, some refused to (go into) battle for political or national or sectarian or religious reasons," Khalaf said.
The majority of Iraqi soldiers and police are Shiites. Many of the government troops were said to have been reluctant to confront fellow Shiites in battle