Extra Police Protection for Sistani; Sadrists flee Wave of Arrests

Al-Hayat reports in Arabic that Iraqi security forces have since Friday evening instituted extra measures to protect the four grand ayatollahs who serve as spiritual leaders of the Shiite community in Iraq, and who live in Najaf. The precautions were taken after an assassination attempt against the representative of Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani in Karbala failed.

Najaf Police Chief Abdul Karim Mustafa said, according to AFP, that he had intelligence of a plot by terrorist groups to create turmoil by assassinating Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani and damaging the shrine of Imam Ali (the son-in-law and cousin of the Prophet Muhammad), among the holiest sites for Shiites.

Al-Hayat’s sources also say that followers of Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr are fleeing from southern cities to Najaf in the wake of a wave of arrests targeting them, especially in Basra and Diwaniya. (The police forces in Diwaniya are dominated by recruits from the Badr corps, a rival militia to the Mahdi Army. Basra is jointly in the hands of Badr and its rival, the paramilitary of the local ruling Fadhila or Virtue Party). It is Mahdi Army leaders who are fleeing to Najaf.)

Rahim al-Musawi, one of those who fled Basra for Najaf, is quoted as telling al-Hayat, “The security forces of Basra are implementing a campaign of arrests of supporters of al-Sadr on the grounds that they belong to Mahdist movements.” The Mahdi is the future promised one of Islam, whose appearance signals the coming of the last days.

Sadrist MP Salah al-Ubaidi said that Muqtada al-Sadr will announce within a month whether his freezing of Mahdi Army activities will continue.

An aide to Muqtada al-Sadr, Sheik Qais al-Mudhaffar, was shot down in Najaf on Friday, as well.

Iraqi officials continue to be worried about the spread of radical Shiite millenarian cults in southern Iraq. Last weekend the Supporters of the Mahdi attacked police checkpoints and a Basra oil focility, as well as killing an Iraqi officer and wounding others in Nasiriya.

Voices of Iraq gives a recent history of the doomsday cults and their differences.

British Foreign Minister Lord Malloch Brown admitted Saturday that the Iraq War has been horrible:

‘Commenting on President Bush statement that there would be victory eventually in Iraq, Malloch-Brown said: “We’ve lost a lot of people there. This is not something that theres triumphalism on any side. This is a terrible episode for everybody.”

. . . Malloch-Brown predicted that Iraq would still be a huge issue in the US presidential debate. (ANI)’

Our world has become so Orwellian that when a British cabinet official admits that the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Iraqis, the displacement of several million, the decline of health care, and the quarantining of entire neighborhoods behind blast walls, have been horrible, that is news.

Among the great tragedies of Bush’s Iraq War has been the destruction of Iraqi history and archeology. Since the people who lived in what is now Iraq invented so much of ancient civilization, this loss diminishes us all.

McClatchy reports political violence in Iraq on Saturday:

‘ Baghdad

– Around 8 a.m. gunmen used machine guns to attack policemen in Bab Al Sharqi, killing one policeman and injuring one.

– A roadside bomb targeted civilians in Al Qanat area causing no casualties.

– Around 10 a.m. a roadside bomb targeted civilians near Al Shaab soccer stadium, injuring five civilians.

– Iraqi police found one body in Dora.

Diyala

– Iraqi police said the American and Iraqi troops clashed with gunmen near Al Wajihiya area (about 25 Kilometers east of Baquba) killing four gunmen including a high ranking member of Al Qaeda.

– Gunmen attacked a local council building in Baquba injuring two guards.

– A roadside bomb targeted police in Muqdadia, killing one police officer and injuring 3 others.

– A roadside bomb targeted the personal car of one of Diyala governor’s body guards in Abu Saida area. The guard was killed in the attack.

– Mortar shells slammed into Al Salam town about 20 kilometers east of Baquba, injuring three residents.

Sulaimaniyah

– Police found two bodies in two different areas of the province. The first deceased was Alaa Atiya, 27 years originally from Karbala, with two gun shots in the head and the knee and was found west of Sulaimaniyah city yesterday. The second body belongs to a Kurdish young man who was found in Sulaimaniyah city with gunshots in the body, police said.’

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