Thursday, June 23, 2011

US forces barred from Basra province

Basra, June 22 (AKnews) – Basra provincial council has ordered a ban on US forces entry into the province in a show of no support for a US forces stay extension in the country beyond the 2011 deadline. 

US troops in Iraq, US army in IraqAccording to the provincial decree which was passed by the council with a vote of 26 members out of 36, no US troops ill be allowed to enter Basra province.

"The provincial council called on the US forces to evacuate the Basra Airport" Basra provincial council media official Hashim Luaibi told AKnews, "To fill the gaps in the face of armed groups who continue to attack the airport because of the presence of the US forces"

The US forces use Basra airport for their military base in the province. Last week, a US helicopter killed one person and injured two whom they described as insurgents trying to fire missiles at the US base.

An Iraqi lawmaker told AKnews that it was civilians who were targeted by the US helicopter not insurgents.

The local government in Basra has also called on the US forces to compensate victims of their military operations, according to Luaibi.

Luaibi did not make clear whether the decision had anything to do with the recent US helicopter attack in Basra or a call by Shia cleric Moqtada al-Sadr who called on all Iraqi provincial councils in late May to prevent the US forces from entering their provinces.

Al-Sadr is famous for his continuous resistance to the US presence in Iraq. His movement's military wing Mahdi Army waged a deadly war against the US forces and Iraqi army in 2004 following closure of his newspaper and attempts to arrest him.

Al-Sadr's followers accuse the US of committing "crimes" against the Iraqi people while stealing the wealth of the country.

Head of the Ahrar Bloc in the Basra provincial council, part of al-Sadr's bloc, Mazen al-Mazeni told AKnews that the decision came after the bloc persistently pressed on the council for such a move.

"This decision is considered to be a strong blow in the face of the occupying forces following the crimes they committed against the people of Basra" he said, "this will benefit the country"

According to a 2008 security agreement, the US forces have to leave the country by the end of 2011. The US forces currently keep some 45,000 troops in Iraq.

US officials expect from the Iraqi government to request Washington at some point to keep part of the US forces in Iraq after the US troops leave in 2011.

The Iraqi government is expected to disclose its final position regarding those forces in late August.

Written by Raber Y. Aziz, reported by Baha al-Kadhemi (AKnews)

22/06/2011 20:34