Iraqi government and Sadr fighters agree truce: Sadr aide

BAGHDAD (Reuters) – Iraq’s government has agreed a truce with the movement of Shi’ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr to end weeks of clashes in Baghdad between Shi’ite gunmen and security forces, a spokesman for the cleric said on Saturday.

Government officials were not immediately available to comment, but if confirmed, the ceasefire could end fighting that has killed several hundred people and left the 2 million residents of Sadr City trapped in a battle zone.

The U.S. military said it was not aware of any deal.

“A deal has been made between the Sadr bloc and the United Iraqi Alliance (UIA) to have a ceasefire. The main aim of the deal is to solve the crisis in Sadr City,” Sadr spokesman Salah al-Ubaidi told Reuters. The UIA is the country’s ruling alliance in parliament.

“The government has accepted this deal,” Ubaidi added.

Ubaidi said he expected the deal to take effect either on Saturday night or Sunday. He said the agreement comprised 10 points.

Major-General Qassim Moussawi, spokesman for Iraqi security forces in Baghdad, said he was not aware of any agreement.

“As a field commander, we are not aware of this deal. Our forces are still on the ground and will not withdraw from Sadr City or other parts unless weapons are handed over,” he told Reuters.

The U.S. military said on Saturday it had killed eight militants in different districts of Baghdad on Friday.

That brought to 33 the total number of gunmen that U.S. forces say they killed in Baghdad on Thursday and Friday.

Fighting has flared in Baghdad since Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki ordered a crackdown on militias in late March.

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