March 31, 2008 / 9:17 AM / 11 years ago

Iraq says more than 200 killed in clashes in Basra

BAGHDAD (Reuters) - More than 200 people have been killed in week-long clashes between Iraqi security forces and gunmen in the southern oil port of Basra, an Interior Ministry spokesman said.

“We have 210 killed, including 42 serious criminals wanted for many crimes, 600 wounded and 155 criminals arrested since the start of the operation in Basra until this moment,” spokesman Brigadier Abdul-Karim Khalaf told Reuters from Basra.

Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki launched a military operation in Basra last Tuesday, vowing to “clean up” the lawless city, whose oilfields are the source of most of his government’s revenues.

The government has said it is targeting “outlaws” terrorizing the city’s residents, not political parties.

But the operation has focused on neighborhoods controlled by Shi’ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr’s Mehdi Army militia, who accuse the government of seeking to crush the Sadrist movement ahead of provincial elections due in October. (Reporting by Aseel Kami; Writing by Ross Colvin; Editing by Ibon Villelabeitia)

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