Basra, Mar 25, (VOI) – Five gunmen were killed and a number of others wounded while planting explosive devices in Basra on Tuesday, the U.S. army said in a statement.
"Coalition forces killed five suspected improvised explosive device emplacers and wounded several others after ten individuals were spotted conducting suspicious activity in the Al Hyyaniyah District, Basra at approximately 11: 45 p.m. March 24," according to the U.S. army statement received by Aswat al-Iraq – Voices of Iraq – (VOI).
"After verifying the individuals were burying what appeared to be an IED, Coalition forces directed aerial fire against the enemy force. There were no Coalition force casualties or damage reported."
A few hours after launching a security plan, the city of Basra witnessed since the midnight of Monday fierce battles between security forces and gunmen in most areas and suburbs of the province, brining life to a standstill and forcing residents to stay indoors.
Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki said that the federal government was determined to decisively restore security and stability and impose law in Basra.
Maliki's statements coincided with a report issued by the National Defense Center which noted that a curfew would be imposed and study stopped in the city until further notice.
Eyewitnesses from the neighboring areas of al-Jumhuriya and al-Aaliya, central Basra, told VOI on Tuesday that the violent clashes in Basra were continuing from 12:00 a.m. until the present time, adding security forces were using tanks and artillery while the gunmen were using mortars and RPG-7 rockets.
Another eyewitness from the same area said more troops were seen coming from the province of Muthanna and entering Basra.
In Tamimiya, central Basra, known to be the most important stronghold of gunmen in Basra, eyewitnesses said a large force, backed by fighter planes and helicopters, besieged the area, where it managed to wield power after violent confrontations.
In al-Jamiyat area, 8 km western Basra, another local resident said clashes were going on since the midnight of Monday with different kinds of weapons used, adding fighter planes were heard pounding some targets.
"The streets are totally empty of pedestrians. All government departments and facilities closed down and the people were confined to their homes," he said.
An eyewitness from al-Maaqal, 10 km north of Basra, said "clashes in the area left two gunmen killed in al-Kaziza district, noting "their bodies were still littering main street there."
He said three people from the al-Kaziza fuel station were wounded and a child from the area was severely wounded from a stray bullet. "The child will most probably die due to failure to have him rushed to a hospital," said the witness.
A statement issued by Maliki addressing the people of Basra, read out on his behalf by Maj. General Abdul-Kareem Khalaf, the Iraqi interior ministry's operations chief, through the official al-Iraqiya TV on Monday, stressed "Basra has been subjected to a lot of internal and external pressure threatening its security and stability through attacks targeting the province's spiritual, scientific and social symbols and even ordinary men and women."
"These illegal acts have been carried out under the cover of religion and politics. The city also has been a scene of operations meant to smuggle petroleum and derivatives as well as weapons, drugs and other prohibited materials."
"It was found that those outlaws received support from people working within the state apparatus, a matter which encouraged spread of crime, murder and kidnapping, making Basra an unsafe city."
"The federal government, in accordance with its obligations to support the local government in the province, is firmly resolved to restore security and stability and to impose law in the city," Maliki said in his statement.
The oil-rich Shiite port city of Basra lies 590 km south of the Iraqi capital Baghdad.