BAGHDAD - Government forces regained control of a southern city yesterday as Shiite militiamen loyal to a powerful cleric withdrew from the streets after hours of intense fighting that killed at least 40 people.
But the cleric's office in a Sunni town was attacked by mortars, grenades and a bomb, leaving two people dead, officials said.
In the southern city of Diwaniyah, which had witnessed hours of fighting, leaders of the tribes to which the dead combatants belonged held reconciliation talks to prevent retaliatory attacks, police said.
At least 25 Iraqi soldiers, 10 civilians and five militiamen were killed, and 75 people were wounded in one of the worst fighting seen in recent months between Shiite militiamen and Government forces.
In a separate incident near Diwaniyah, an explosion killed at least 15 people who were siphoning petrol from pools formed around a breach in a disused fuel pipeline.
A Reuters reporter at the rural site counted 15 charred bodies, including that of a boy.
In Baghdad, Iraqi police found the bodies of 24 people who had apparently been tortured and shot before being dumped in two separate locations, police said.
Authorities say there has been a drop in the number of deaths in the capital following a massive security operation this month.