Fallujah and Najaf
al-Hayat reports that the Interim Governing Council continues to attempt to negotiate a settlement at Fallujah between guerrillas and the US Marines. The Marines called down 500-pound bombs and AC-130 howitzers on the Julan neighborhood again on Wednesday, in reply to heavy fire from insurgents based there. Eyewitnesses said 10 buildings were destroyed and others damaged. There is no word on casualties, including civilian casualties. The IGC said that any general US attack on any Iraqi city had the potential to cause thousands of noncombatant deaths. The Sunni Islamist Muhsin Abdul Hamid has taken the lead in conducting negotiations, and he maintained that much of the city had returned to normal (apparently meaning the other neighborhoods beside Julan, which was receiving 500 pound bombs).
With regard to the situation in Najaf, US troops tightened their control of the approaches to it and began searching all vehicles moving between Najaf and Kufa.
An aide to Muqtada al-Sadr warned the Americans that there would be a violent reply if their forces entered Najaf. He also accused the Kurdish peshmerga fighters of helping the American forces. Husam al-Musawi said, “Our response will be violent and unpredictable.” He described the erection of a barrier between Kufa and Najaf by the Americans as a laughable step aimed at isolating Kufa from Najaf. He said that any US patrol inside Njaf would be attacked as a form of self-defense. He said there was decisive proof of the participation of Kurdish fighters with the Americans in the siege of Najaf. (-ash-Sharq al-Awsat).
Some teachers in the Najaf seminaries called upon radical young cleric Muqtada al-Sadr to leave the shrine of Imam Ali, just as the Imam Husayn had departed from Mecca (when he led his uprising against the Umayyad empire in 680-81). This according to the Iranian newspaper, Baztab. The seminarians said that it was obvious that Muqtada’s bloody confrontation with the US was doomed to fail, and that he should do the right thing and take his fight out of Najaf so as to protect it, just as Imam Husayn had protected Mecca.
In Qom and Mashhad in Iran, each of which has major seminaries, there were strikes and protests on Wednesday against the US siege of Najaf. A major cleric, says al-Hayat, warned the US against moving against southern Shiite cities in Iraq, especially Najaf and Karbala.