200 militia, Iraqi 8th Army Division in 7-hour battle in Diwaniya; Provincial Governor reportedly moves family to Iran for safety
Above: Eighth Iraqi Army Division soldiers have been operating in conjunction with U.S. forces in Diwaniya since the beginning of April in an operation aimed at Moqtada al-Sadr's forces in the city. Left: Colored box shows Al Qadisiyah province. Diwaniya is the capital city of Al Qadisiyah. In 2002, its population was estimated at 420,000. The town is located on the main rail transport corridor between Baghdad and Basra.
Scores of militiamen loyal to the Shiite cleric Mokatada al-Sadr fought street battles against Iraqi soldiers as government security forces swept into militia strongholds as part of a government crackdown, local officials said.
At least 11 people — eight civilians, two police officers and one solider — were wounded in the fighting, which raged for seven hours and by some official estimates involved as many as 200 militia members, police and army commanders said. As the clashes worsened, the provincial governor moved his family to safety in Iran, a police commander said...
Mahdi Army fighters have occasionally battled members of the Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council's armed wing, the Badr Organization. But provincial and tribal officials said the fighting on Wednesday was mostly between Mahdi gunmen and members of the Iraqi Army's Eighth Division, which is not considered to be a pawn of the provincial leadership or the Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council.
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