A firefight broke out after police surrounded a Sunni Arab mosque in Basra early Sunday, leaving at least nine people killed, officials said, another blow to efforts by Iraq's prime minister to curb sectarian violence in the oil-rich area.
Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki declared a state of emergency Wednesday in once peaceful Basra, Iraq's second-largest city, vowing to crack down with an "iron fist" on rival gangs battling each other for power.
Basra police said they surrounded the al-Arab mosque in Basra, Iraq's second-largest city, about 2 a.m. after being tipped off that militants had holed up inside and gunmen opened fire from within. Iraqi forces also said they found two vehicles packed with explosives near the mosque.
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