Iraqi officials say at least 19 people are dead after Sunni Arab insurgents clashed with police and members of a Shi'ite militia south of Baghdad Thursday.
Among the dead were two policemen and 17 members of radical cleric Moqtada al-Sadr's Mehdi Army. Officials say the fighting erupted when militia members, with the help of police, tried to rescue a fellow fighter who was abducted by insurgents.
The fighting comes as Sunni Arab, Shi'ite and Kurdish political groups try to forge alliances ahead of Friday's deadline to register for December's parliamentary elections.
On Wednesday, three Sunni Arab groups agreed to form a coalition, and Thursday there are reports that Shi'ite leaders are close to reaching a deal. The main Kurdish parties have said they will keep their alliance from last January's election.
Some information for this report provided by AFP and Reuters.