Page last updated at 15:19 GMT, Wednesday, 26 March 2008

Basrans describe life under fire

Two residents in Basra describe conditions in the city and what they know of the fighting between Iraqi forces and local militia.


Smoke rises during clashes between  Mahdi Army and state forces in Basra
The Iraqi Prime Minister has given the militia 72 hours to leave Basra

I think the worst fighting is in Hayania district, it's the poorest area of Basra and a stronghold of the Mehdi Army, but it's a bit far from us to know what's really going on.

There is not much fighting where we live in al-Janina district, but we can hear the fighting in al-Jumhouriya - a poor neighbourhood a couple of miles away.

The government started this operation without warning, so we were caught off guard.

We are stuck in our house, unable to go out and buy food. No shops are open anyway. People have already started to ration their food.

The water supply has been cut. I don't know why - maybe it's because the water engineers are staying at home like everyone else.

I think the state forces are winning the battle, but they are fighting from a distance and not going in house to house yet.

The troops fighting now came from Baghdad. I think the national forces don't trust the local men to crack down on the militia

We definitely support the government in trying to enforce the law. The only way they can do it at the moment is through force. I think they have left it too long, actually.

Over the last few months the militias have become really unruly, they have been getting away with whatever they want.

The Mehdi Army is the worst - especially the breakaway elements. The militia which belongs to the Mayor's Fadhila party is also very bad.

The current head of police is a good person who wants to confront them, he is just unable to do so.

The troops fighting now came from Baghdad. I think the national forces don't trust the local men to crack down on the militia.


The Iraqi army has imposed a curfew, so we can hardly leave the house.

We live in the city centre; it seems the Iraqi army is in control around here.

We welcome the Iraqi army, we think they will be able to take full control of Basra, and restore law and order

From what I have gathered from people I know in the Mehdi Army, their men don't have enough ammunition to hold out for very long.

The gunfire and artillery fire around the city intensifies every two hours.

I live close to a hospital, and though I havenít seen any of the killed or wounded, I can hear lots of ambulance sirens.

I phoned members of my family who live in other areas of the city. They say they have seen lots of casualties in areas like Hayania and Tamimia.

We still have electricity here, however, the cost of food and fuel has risen dramatically. For example, a gas canister used to cost 6,000 Iraqi Dinars and now it is 15,000 Dinars.

My family was ready for this, we managed to store fuel and food before the fighting began.

However, many others didn't and so they are struggling to get the basics for their families.

The Mehdi Army men are only here out of self-interest. They wanted to take control over every aspect of life in Basra for no reason except gaining more power and control.

My family and I welcome the Iraqi army in the area. We believe they will be able to take full control of Basra, and restore law and order.

Interview carried out and translated by

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