Violent clashes in Iraq move south to Basra

STORY: Clashes among rival Shi'ite militants in the Iraqi city of Basra have killed at least four people, security officials said on Thursday (September 1).

As violence from the worsening political crisis moved south to Iraq's oil-producing hub.

It began with two days of intense street fighting in Baghdad earlier in the week, the worst the Iraqi capital has seen for years.

The crisis amounts to a power struggle between Shi'ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr and mostly Iran-aligned Shi'ite parties and paramilitary groups.

Sadr said he would quit politics, prompting his loyalists to storm this government complex in Baghdad on Monday. He called for calm in Baghdad on Tuesday and the violence promptly subsided.

Omar Sami witnessed the latest outbreak in Basra.

"Children were screaming, people were afraid in their homes. Cars were smashed, all the houses here were hit by gunfire. So this is the car of a victim, it burnt, who will compensate them? The government? The government is absent, the governor is saying that Basra is safe and nothing's happening and the situation is under control. Nothing is under control!"

Both security officials in Basra said the deadliest clashes took place overnight in the center of the city and two of those killed were members of Sadr's Peace Brigades militia.

On Thursday morning, gunmen attacked government buildings in Basra where security forces and paramilitary groups with links to Iran are stationed.

Iraq has been without a government since an election in October as the rival camps try to exert control over its formation.

The violence has centered on Baghdad and the south, areas dominated by Iraq's Shi'ite majority. It has ruled the country since Sunni dictator Saddam Hussein's regime was toppled in 2003 by a U.S.-led invasion.