Damn, looks like Iraq has gone from bad to worse.
Fighting broke out in Baghdad and the holy city of Najaf on Wednesday between rival Shi’ite militias, raising fears of a renewed uprising by radical cleric Moqtada al-Sadr’s Mehdi army against the U.S.-backed government.
At least eight people were killed and dozens wounded, health officials said, in street battles in Najaf involving pro-government Badr Organisation fighters and supporters of Sadr, who has joined Sunni Arabs in denouncing a constitution the Shi’ite-led government is preparing to force through parliament.
A spokesman for Sadr warned of a “general call to arms” unless rival groups apologised for what he called attacks on Sadr’s office in Najaf. His Mehdi Army was banned after U.S. troops crushed two uprisings last year, but it has not disarmed.
Iraq’s health minister, a Sadr supporter, said eight people were killed when a protest outside the movement’s office in Najaf turned violent. He said he would suspend his role in the government until he was satisfied they had dealt with the issue.
Later, Baghdad police said armed Sadr followers attacked offices of the Badr Organisation, allied to a powerful Shi’ite Islamist party in the ruling coalition, in three Shi’ite districts. Witnesses said at least one office had been occupied.
In the southern city of Basra, witnesses said about 300 armed men loyal to Sadr had gathered outside his office.