- The Washington Times - Monday, October 23, 2006

2:03 p.m.

BAGHDAD, Iraq (AP) — Shiite militiamen loyal to a fiery anti-American Shiite cleric re-emerged in the troubled southern city of Amarah today, dragging four policemen aligned with a rival Shiite militia from their homes and killing them.

Witnesses said the Iraqi army, camped on the edge of the city, was doing nothing to stop the resurgence of Shiite-on-Shiite violence. Iraq’s leaders sent a force of about 500 soldiers to the city late last week after Muqtada al-Sadr’s Mahdi Army militiamen stormed the city and attacked police stations, manned primarily by loyalists of the rival Badr Brigades, also a Shiite militia.

At least 25 fighters and police died in those gunbattles before politicians intervened and won a promise from the Mahdi Army gunmen to leave the streets. In the meantime, virtually all of the Amarah police force went into hiding.

The Iraqi prime minister, meanwhile, warned the country against lawlessness and said his military would take unspecified action to stop the mounting bloodshed.

“Let everyone be informed that orders have been issued to the armed forces to stop any transgression against state power and to confront any illegal attempt regardless of its source,” Nouri al-Maliki said in a statement.

“The Iraqi government also calls in particular on the people of Maysan province (home to Amarah) to exercise caution and care in the face of attempts to drag the people of this unified nation into fighting and strife,” the Shiite prime minister said.

Mr. al-Maliki has faced growing pressure from allies in Washington and London to rein in Shiite militias and other violent factions, and his statement appeared to be a reaction.

The White House said today that the fledgling Iraqi government must step up and take more responsibility for the country’s security.

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