Gunbattles Rage in Many Iraqi Cities on Wednesday
az-Zaman reports ongoing gunbattles in Ramadi and Fallujah between Sunni Arab forces and US marines. It also notes that clashes have broken out in the Adhamiyah and Yarmuk quarters of Baghdad around Umm al-Qura Mosque (these are Sunni areas of the capital). The US killed 40 people with air strikes on a mosque in Fallujah on Wednesday, according to the BBC. Although Gen. Kimmit alleged that they had not actually destroyed the mosque or harmed its dome, he did allow as how they had made large holes in its walls. He pointed out the religious sites are not illegitimate targets if they are used as bases from which to launch attacks.
It seems a little unlikely to me that Muslims around the world are going to say, “Oh, well, they only knocked some holes in the mosque wall. This isn’t really so bad. And, they had every right to do it in international law.”
The Toronto Star reports that widespread fighting between Sadrist Shiites and Coalition troops continued on Wednesday. Angry Shiites in the southern town of Kut expelled Ukrainian troops from the city and took over the Ukrainian base. They also moved into the governmental HQ there. Sadrist fighters clashed with Americans at the town of Baqubah in the east, and forced a US helicopter to land by hitting it with small arms fire (the crew was uninjured).
The Sadrists continue to hold Kufa and Najaf, and Najaf in particular is beginning to receive thousands of religious pilgrims who have come for the Arba’in or 40th day mourning period after the anniversary of the martyrdom of the prophet’s grandson, Husayn.
az-Zaman reports that physicians in Sadr City report the deaths of 3 Iraqis killed in gun battles there, with 4 more dead because of US airplanes strafing the area. 7 Iraqis were wounded there. It says that in Karbala, 2 Sadr supporters were killed, as were 5 Iranians, in continued clashes. The Sadrists had tried to take the local governors’ mansion from Coalition ofrces.
Muqtada al-Sadr, who appears to have taken refuge in the shrine of Imam Ali in Najaf, issued a statement:
‘ “I call upon the American people to stand beside their brethren, the Iraqi people, who are suffering an injustice by your rulers and the occupying army, to help them in the transfer of power to honest Iraqis,” Sadr said from the southern city of Najaf. “Otherwise, Iraq will be another Vietnam for America and the occupiers.” ‘ Muqtada also urged the Kuwaiti government to expel the “terrorist bases” of the United States from that country. About 15% of Kuwaitis are Shiites.
At Nasiriyah, acorrding to AP, South Korean troops ceased their reconstruction activities and were confined to barracks because of the poor security situation. Japanese troops near Samawah in the south heard loud explosions nearby, possibly aimed at rattling them and forcing their withdrawal from the country.
US military forces called Wednesday for Muqtada al-Sadr to surrender, saying this was the best way to restore order. They also pledged to destroy the Army of the Mahdi, created by Muqtada al-Sadr.