A fighter from the Mahdi Army militia stands guard near a burning tyre on a road in Baghdad's Sadr City March 26, 2008. Fourteen people were killed and more than 140 wounded in clashes between security forces and Shi'ite militants in Baghdad's Sadr City slum, a medical source said on Wednesday. (Xinhua/Reuters Photo)
Clashes between Shiite militia and security troops remain hot across Iraq on Wednesday, while Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki issued a 72-hour ultimatum for gunmen to surrender weapon.
The escalation of battle generated concern that a ceasefire offered by radical Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr could end and large-scale violence resurrect.
In Basra, the focus of the confrontation, the death toll has reached 38 while more than 134 others were injured, a local security personnel said on condition of anonymity.
Maliki, who has been in Basra to oversee a major offensive by Iraqi security forces, dubbed "Operation Cavalry Assault", ordered a three-day deadline for militants to hand over weapons or face consequences.
"Those who were deceived into rising weapons must hand over their arms and make a written pledge not to repeat their actions within 72 hours, otherwise they will face penalties according to the law," Maliki said.
The prime minister has said the government has resolved to restore security and law in the oil-rich city, which has seen fierce turf wars between Shiite factions and rampant criminal activities.