Iraqi prime minister vows to fight militias in Basra to the end

Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki pledged "no retreat" in the fight against Shiite militias in the southern city of Basra, as thousands of protesters demanded he resign over the crackdown and extremists fired rockets into the US-protected Green Zone. Shiite militia leader Muqtada al-Sadr called Thursday for a political solution to the burgeoning crisis and an end to the "shedding of Iraqi blood." But the statement, released by a close aide, stopped short of ordering his Mahdi Army militia to halt attacks on the Green Zone or stop fighting in Basra, Iraq's second-largest city. In a sign of the deteriorating security, gunmen in Baghdad seized a high-profile government spokesman from his home in a Shiite neighborhood, killing three of his bodyguards and torching his house. In a bid to curb the violence, Iraq's military ordered vehicles and pedestrians off the streets of the capital until Sunday morning. As Americans and Iraqis scrambled to cope with a newly violent Iraq, the State Department ordered all personnel at the US Embassy not to leave reinforced structures because of continued incoming rocket or mortar fire from suspected Shiite extremists angry over the Basra crackdown