LONDON, Jan. 7 (UPI) -- British troops in the Iraqi port city of Basra brokered a truce with a Shiite militia before pulling back to their military base in 2007, an inquiry heard.
John Chilcot, the chairman of the London inquiry into the British involvement in the Iraq war, resumed hearings this week following a holiday recess.
Jon Day, the operations director for the Ministry of Defense during the British engagement, told the Chilcot inquiry British forces negotiated a truce with the Mehdi Army of radical cleric Moqtada Sadr in 2007 in an effort to control spiraling insecurity.
"I can confirm that there were contacts between the U.K. and the Sadrists in Basra from the spring of 2007," he said during his testimony.
Southern Iraq had turned violent as various political factions vied for control over what is considered the economic hub of Iraq. Day said, however, that negotiations with the Mehdi Army led to a significant reduction in the levels of violence, The Times of London reports.
British forces withdrew from Basra to the port city's international airport three months after the cease-fire. Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki in March 2008, however, ordered a unilateral military offensive into the city to take on remaining militants.