Sadrist Militia interferes with Burial Rites for Aqila al-Hashimi
Aqila al-Hashimi, a Shiite member of the Interim Governing Council, was buried in Najaf on Friday after having been assassinated, probably by Baathist goons. Ordinarily the body would have been carried to the shrine of Imam Musa al-Kazim at al-Kazimiya, a suburb of Baghdad, for prayers before being taken to Najaf. The way was blocked, however, by an armed Sadrist militia (the Army of the Mahdi), who had been allowed to carry arms because the young radical Shiite leader Muqtada al-Sadr was visiting the area. Initially the American troops accompanying the funeral procession in tanks and armored cars arrested four of the Sadrist militiamen. Then a Sadrist crowd gathered, shouting, “Absolutely no, absolutely no to America! Yes, yes to Islam!” and demanding the release of the four gunmen. The US authorities decided to avoid a confrontation. They let the four go. (al-Sharq al-Awsat)
But then it was decided that the militiamen constituted a security threat to the funeral procession, which included high Iraqi officials appointed by the American administration, and so the prayers at the shrine were abandoned. The procession went straight to Najaf. Since Muqtada must have known that al-Hashimi’s body would be taken to Kazimiya, his decision to go there and to employ armed militiamen there as body guards seems to me to have been calculated to provoke an incident. Muqtada has forbidden Shiites from cooperating with the United States, and has demanded an immediate US withdrawal, so he was no fan of Aqila al-Hashimi.
The incident shows how little the US is in control on the ground. If it had been, Aqila would be alive, and her funeral procession would not have been turned into a clerical power play.