CLASHES erupted in two of Iraq's largest cities yesterday while bomb attacks killed 21 in the capital, highlighting the precarious security situation as US and Iraqi forces try to stem sectarian violence.
British troops and a column of armoured personnel carriers rushed to Basra as armed gangs fought with Iraqi forces for more than an hour in the mainly Shiite city, where prime minister Nuri al-Maliki declared a state of emergency in June.
Police said they killed six insurgents in the religiously divided city of Mosul, 240 miles north of Baghdad and the scene of heavy fighting ten days ago when US and Iraqi soldiers took several hours to restore calm.
Simultaneous car bombs killed 13 and hurt 43 on Tunis Street in a commercial area of central Baghdad, police said.
Earlier yesterday, a roadside bomb in a small flea market in east Baghdad killed eight and wounded up to 28.
"The bomb exploded beside those people who were just here to earn their living. They were just selling junk," said Mohamed Karin, standing amid the scattered debris of televisions and household utensils.
Fighting in Basra began with an attack on the office of the governor and governing council. Basra governor Mohamed Alwaili said they were mainly from the powerful Bani-Asad tribe and police sources said they were avenging the killing of a leader.
"There were men from this tribe and others from Basra. They started shooting at the governor's building. We will stand firm against those who carry weapons," he said.
Aqil al-Furaiji, a member of the Shiite-led governing council, said one policeman was killed and five wounded.