Iraq beefs up forces in militia crackdown

AMARA, Iraq (Reuters) – Iraq’s government beefed up army and police units in the southern city of Amara on Sunday for a new crackdown on Shi’ite militias, a Reuters reporter said.

Iraqi military convoys including armored vehicles and tanks were moving through the northern side of the city, he said.

The operation is the latest stage in Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki’s drive to stamp his government’s authority on areas of the country previously controlled by Shi’ite militias or Sunni Arab insurgents.

In a statement read on state television on Saturday night, Maliki said he was giving outlaws and criminals a last chance to surrender and hand over heavy and medium weapons.

Amara is a stronghold of Shi’ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, who agreed to a ceasefire after U.S.-backed Iraqi forces launched a major offensive on his Mehdi Army militia in Basra in March. But he remains an unpredictable security concern.

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