Sistani Aide Insists on Elections
Some 3000 US soldiers and 1000 Iraqi national guardsmen advanced into downtown Samarra on Friday, engaging in heavy fighting with the guerrilla resistance in that city. Thousands of residents fled north, and the city was shaken with constant explosions. Electricity and water were cut off. Although the US troops and their Iraqi allies took the city center and the major government offices, guerrillas appear to have continued to control some city quarters. The Iraqi spokesman, Qasim Da’ud, castigated the guerrillas as highway robbers and other undesirables, but they appear just to be angry young men from the city who reject the new American-dominated status quo.
Some 47 bodies were brought to the local morgue, and dozens were wounded. Some estimates put the number of dead at over 100.
Although Samarra is a largely Sunni city, it has a small Shiite population, who tend to live near the shrine of the 11th Imam. One report said that US fire struck the shrine, sending black plumes of smoke from it, and doing some damage.
Fighting in Sadr City killed 9 Mahdi Army militiamen. (al-Hayat)
An aide to Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani in Karbala said on Friday that elections must be held in January.
In al-Qurnah in the deep south, clashes broke out earlier this week between tribal factions. The Iraqi police intervened, and four of them were killed. Four tribesmen were also slain in the fighting. No announcement was made about what was really going on in al-Qurnah. (-Ash-Sharq al-Awsat).