Iraqi PM Gives Basra Gunmen Ultimatum
Mar 26, 6:54 AM (ET)
By QASSIM ABDUL-ZAHRA
BAGHDAD (AP) - Iraq's prime minister on Wednesday gave gunmen in the southern oil port of Basra a three-day deadline to surrender their weapons and renounce violence as clashes between Shiite militia fighters and Iraqi security forces erupted for a second day.
At least 55 people have been killed and 300 wounded in Basra and Baghdad after the fighting spread to the capital's main Shiite district of Sadr City, police and hospital officials said.
The ultimatum came as Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki was in Basra to supervise a crackdown against the spiraling violence between militia factions vying for control of the center of the country's vast oil industry located near the Iranian border. The violence has raised fears that the cease-fire declared in August by Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr could unravel, presenting the gravest challenge to the Iraqi government in months.