At least 44 people were killed today in clashes between Iraqi and US forces, and Shiite militiamen of Mahdi Army in the central Iraqi city of Kut, police chief Abdul Hanin al-Amara told AFP.
"The security forces launched an operation on Wednesday to take back areas under the control of Shiite gunmen," Amara said.
"At least 40 gunmen and four policemen were killed. Around 75 people were wounded. Police have now imposed full control on these neighbourhoods."
The offensive followed days of sporadic clashes in Kut, around 175 kilometres southeast of Baghdad, between Mahdi Army militiamen and Iraqi troops during which, according to witnesses, gunmen ran through the streets, burning shops and public buildings.
It comes as Iraqi forces battle Shiite militiamen in areas under the control of the Mahdi Army militia of radical cleric Moqtada al-Sadr in the southern city of Basra.
A curfew was imposed on Kut on March 25 when the military operations began in Basra.
Fighting has also spread to Baghdad where clashes in the Mahdi Army bastion of Sadr City have killed at least 20 people, according to Iraqi officials.