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Iraqi PM Vows to Crack Down on Illegal Militias


Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki says his government will crack down on illegal militias that are blamed for widespread sectarian violence.

Mr. Maliki said in a news conference Wednesday, the government will deal harshly with anyone who breaks the law.

His comments came one day after the U.S. ambassador to Iraq, Zalmay Khalilzad, said Iraqi leaders had agreed to set a timeline for improving security and the economy within the next year

Speaking in Baghdad, Khalilzad also said the Iraqi government must "step up" its efforts to achieve those goals.

In the latest anti-insurgency operation, the U.S. military says Iraqi troops backed by U.S. advisers raided a Shi'ite district of Baghdad Wednesday in search of a top militia leader accused of commanding death squads in the city.

Iraqi officials say at least four people were killed and 18 others wounded during a gunfight in the area.

The Iraqi and U.S. forces entered the Sadr City neighborhood before dawn but soon came under fire, and called in airstrikes to protect themselves.

A U.S. military statement says the raid was authorized by the Iraqi government, but it does not say if the alleged death squad leader was captured.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP, AP and Reuters.
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