IGC moves Against Sadr Militia in Karbala
The Interim Governing Council sent Iraqi police into the al-Mukayam mosque in the holy city of Karbala Tuesday to arrest armed militiamen loyal to Muqtada al-Sadr. They were assisted by US troops, but it was good that the main steps were taken by Iraqis. Interior Minister Nuri al-Badran (an ex-Baathist officer) said that the move was authorized by Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani and other senior clerics. Al-Badran said, “”All the gunmen surrendered with their weapons,” he said. “Twenty-one people were arrested. Another 20 guarding outside the mosque were arrested. Those taken into custody briefly included Shaikh Khalid Kadhimi, a Sadr lieutenant in Karbala.
In a statement distributed in Najaf, Sistani complained that the recent fighting in Karbala had only occured because of “the disappearance of an effective central government.” He said the incidents occurred because of “the existence in the hands of destructive elements large quantities of arms.” It said that Sistani had sent his personal representative, Husain Shahristani, to Karbala to negotiate an agreement making the holy sites weapons-free zones. It maintained that Sistani had emphatically and repeatedly told Interim Governing Council members that immediate steps should be taken to confiscate illegal weapons. It regretted that no such campaign to disarm such elements had been launched. The statement emphasized that Sistani was not taking sides in intra-Shiite disputes, and that his fatherly love encompasses all (AFP /al-Zaman).
Also on Tuesday, a Polish convoy came under rocket propelled grenade fire near Karbala. There were no casualties.