April 13th, 2008 11:21 EST
Police in Iraq dismissed for dereliction of duties
Iraq's government has dismissed about 1,300 security personnel for dereliction of duties during a recent crackdown on armed Shi'ite groups in southern Iraq.
Iraqi interior ministry spokesman Major General Abdul-Karim Khalaf said Sunday that about 900 soldiers and police were fired in the southern city of Basra. He says another 400 security personnel were dismissed in the central city of Kut.
Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki launched an offensive in Basra last month against criminal gangs and militiamen, including followers of radical Shi'ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr.
But, the operation met fierce resistance and the fighting quickly spread to Baghdad and other Shi'ite areas of the country.
Iraqi officials acknowledge that hundreds of security personnel refused to fight in the offensive, with some defecting to the armed groups and handing over vehicles and weapons.
The fighting in Basra eased in late March, but Iraqi officials say the security crackdown is continuing there.
Elsewhere, Iraqi and U.S. forces have been engaged in heavy fighting with armed groups in Baghdad's Sadr City district for the past two weeks. Sadr City is a stronghold of al-Sadr's Mahdi Army militia.
Some information for this report was provided by AFP, AP and Reuters.