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Shiite militias told to disarm

Published January 11, 2007


BAGHDAD - Iraq's prime minister has told Shiite militiamen to surrender their arms or face an all-out assault by U.S.-backed Iraqi forces, senior Iraqi officials said Wednesday.

Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, head of Iraq's Shiite-led government, previously had blocked several U.S. attempts to crack down on fighters controlled by his most powerful political ally, Muqtada al-Sadr, a radical Shiite cleric.

"The government has told the Sadrists: 'If we want to build a state we have no other choice but to attack armed groups,' " a senior Shiite legislator said.

Although Maliki withdrew political protection from the Mahdi Army, there was no guarantee the Shiite fighters would be easily routed from the large and growing area of Baghdad under their control.

11 killed in ambush

Gunmen ambushed a convoy carrying Shiite Muslim pilgrims home from Saudi Arabia on Wednesday in central Iraq, killing 11 people, a provincial governor said. The attack on the pilgrims returning from the hajj occurred 75 miles west of the Shiite holy city of Karbala, just inside the Sunni insurgent stronghold of Anbar province.

At least 92 violent deaths were reported by police in Iraq, including 67 bullet-riddled bodies that were found, most in Baghdad.

The U.S. military also said three American soldiers were killed Tuesday in fighting - one in Diyala province and two in Anbar.

[Last modified January 11, 2007, 01:33:20]

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