With fighting breaking out in Najaf, Fallujah and Sadr City in the past week it had all appearences of becoming a wider conflict similar to the spring
offensive by al-Sadr's Mehdi Army. That possibility now seems to have gone away with the Iraqi army victory in Najaf.
BAGHDAD (AFP) - More than 1,200 militiamen loyal to radical Shiite cleric Moqtada Sadr surrendered following fierce clashes with US and Iraqi forces
in Najaf, the police general directorate said.
"Over 1,200 criminals have surrendered to Iraqi forces," it said in a statement, adding that the holy city of Najaf had been "secured."
It said most of the captured militiamen were criminals who were released from Iraqi prisons by ousted president Saddam Hussein (news - web sites)
before last year's US-led invasion.
The statement accused Sadr's Mehdi Army of wanting to "destablise the country," and vowed "this operation will continue until this illegal and cruel
violence has been quelled."
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al-Sadr's Mehdi Army has lost a sizable force to the combined efforts of the Iraqi Interim government and U.S. forces in what may end up a pivital
turning point in the Iraqi governments effort to quell insurrection by quasi religious groups.
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