NAJAF, Iraq - Iraqi Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr on Sunday ordered his fighters to withdraw from the streets of all neighbourhoods where his militiamen are engaged in fierce clashes with security forces.
"We want the Iraqi people to stop this bloodshed and maintain Iraq's independence and stability. For that we have decided to withdraw arms from the streets of Basra and all other provinces," Sadr said in a statement with his seal released by his headquarters in the holy city of Najaf.
Sadr said he took the decison as it was his "legitimate responsibility to stop the bleeding of Iraqis, to maintain the reputation of Iraqi people, the unity of land and people, to prepare for its independence and liberation from the dark forces and to quell the fire of division by the occupier and its followers."
Sadr's latest call came after six days of fighting between Shiite fighters and Iraqi forces in the southern city of Basra, Baghdad and several other Shiite regions.
The clashes erupted on Tuesday when prime minister Nuri al-Maliki launched an assault on Shiite militiamen in Basra. The firefights across Iraq have killed more than 270 people, mostly in Basra and Baghdad.