Clashes between militiamen and the police in the city of Kut, about 100 miles southeast of Baghdad, since Tuesday have left at least 13 people dead including two policemen, according to local authorities quoted by Reuters adding that nearly 70 militia members were also detained.
Abadi was not able to immediately confirm the casualty figures but says that the Iraqi Army, which did not previously have a permanent presence in the city, has now gone in to keep the peace. He says the fighting was sparked when militiamen attacked the police and seized four of their newly issued vehicles.
The spokesman for US-led coalition forces in Iraq Rear Adm. Greg Smith said US air power was involved in the fighting in Kut early on but sought to play down the significance of the clashes there and the recent unrest in the south. He portrayed the fighting in Kut as just being a turf battle between "local groups."
"It's limited in terms of scope and scale … we do not view it as a widespread issue and concern outside of Kut," Admiral Smith told reporters during a briefing in Baghdad.
The US military continues to say that Al Qaeda is the No. 1 threat in Iraq, and Smith highlighted this Sunday by speaking about a group of 48 fighters that have been detained by US troops over the past four months. He said all came over the Syrian border to carry out suicide attacks in Iraq. He said their average age was 22 and that 40 percent were Saudi.
But a pattern of violence in southern Iraq over the past week highlights another threat, too.
Four American soldiers were killed in two separate attacks in southern Iraq Wednesday, a day after a powerful roadside bomb, similar to those Washington accuses Iran of shipping to Iraq, struck a bus near the southern city of Nasiriyah, killing 16 civilians. On Saturday, 29 Katyusha rockets aimed at the US consulate in Hilla, south of Baghdad, hit a residential neighborhood instead, wounding nine.