March 26th, 2008 02:59 EST
40 Killed, 200 wounded in Southern Iraq
Iraqi officials say at least 40 people have been killed and 200 others wounded in two days of fighting between government forces and Shi'ite militias in the southern city of Basra.
Officials say heavy gun battles restarted early Wednesday in at least five districts of the city, a day after Iraqi forces launched a major military operation against Shi'ite militants in the oil-rich southern port.
Meanwhile, officials say renewed fighting in Baghdad's Sadr City district has killed at least 14 people and wounded at least 100 others.
Iraqi Shi'ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr has urged his followers to stage protests against recent raids and detentions targeting fighters from his Mahdi army.
One of his aides, Hazem al-Aaraji, read a statement Tuesday saying the radical cleric would order a "civil revolt" if attacks against his followers were not halted immediately.
Separately, in an interview with VOA's Kurdish service, a member of Iraq's parliament from the Sadr bloc, Baha al-A'raji, called on supporters of the Sadr movement to use caution and avoid further inflaming tensions.
The clashes are jeopardizing a seven-month-old cease-fire that Sadr declared last year.
British military officials in Basra say Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki is in the city to oversee the military offensive.
Some information for this report was provided by AP, Reuters and AFP.