In Iraq, Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has ordered a nationwide freeze on raids against Shia fighters. The move follows last week’s US-Iraqi offensive that killed more than 500 people in Basra and Baghdad.
The freeze also comes as a senior Iraqi official has told the New York Times more than 1,000 Iraqi soldiers and police officers abandoned their posts during the operations. The Bush administration had touted the offensive as proof of US success in training Iraqi forces. The 1,000 desertions include more than 100 officers, among them the commander and deputy commander of an entire brigade. Meanwhile, the US military continues daily air strikes around Iraq.
On Thursday, six people were killed and fifteen wounded when US forces fought Shia militants in Hilla. A local resident said a US bombing killed civilians.
Hilla resident: “They were innocent people who worked on transporting the wounded from a place that had been targeted by US-led forces. At the time they were taking the wounded to the hospital, the US-led forces bombed the area, killing a number of our brothers, bodyguards in Babil health office, soldiers and policemen in Babil.”