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Iraqi PM renews vow to disband militias
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Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki confirmed on Wednesday his vow to disband all the armed groups, including Shiite Mahdi Army militia, whom he accused of using civilians as "human shields" in fightings in Sadr City.

Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki speaks during a news conference in Baghdad April 30, 2008.

"We will not stop until we take all the weapons from them ilitia and disband Mahdi Army and Sunni insurgent groups like Islamic Army and Omer Army," Maliki said in a press conference in Baghdad.

Maliki reiterated his terms put earlier in the week for militias to obey to avoid crackdown, under which the militias should hand in all heavy and medium weapons and turn over all wanted people and those involved in violence.

Militias, including Mahdi Army militia loyal to radical cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, were employing tactics used previously by the former regime of Saddam Hussein, Maliki said.

"Criminals and outlawed gangs are using civilians as human shields in the Sadr City. They are doing what Saddam's Baath party did," he said.

"Those criminals are trying to gain sympathy from the world byusing lies and values of the Baath regime," he added. Late on March, Maliki led an offensive against Sadr followers in several Iraqi cities, including Baghdad and Basra. He then warned that Sadr must disband his Mahdi Army militia or will be barred from taking part in the upcoming provincial elections. Last week, Sadr threatened an "open war" against the Iraqi government if the U.S.-backed Iraqi troops continue to crack down on his Mahdi Army militiamen.

A spokesman for the government's Baghdad security plan Tehseen Sheikhly told foreign media that over 900 people have been killed and some 2600 more people wounded in clashes in Sadr City since late March.

(Xinhua News Agency May 1, 2008)

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