The Situation in Najaf
A kind friend who was able to get a phone call into Najaf reports as follows:
‘ I called my friend in Najaf today Thursday . . . Private internet doesn´t work. Messages bounce. There are though some institutional connections working, like hospitals and other.
He told me there is a lot of fighting going on, mainly between the Mahdi army and Salvadorans, all the time. 4-5 Salvadorans are said to be killed. My friend has been videotaping fighting, bullets and clashes close to him.
Four taxi cars with civilians were blown up with lots of dead and injured, women and children including. Americans blame Mehdi army for casualties but they reject responibility for the assaults. My friend says this had happened close to a place called Al Bahar. He also says . . . civilians, pedestrians, on their way to Karbala religious festivities were attacked and killed or injured.
American helicopters are circling above Najaf perpetually. The Mahdi army are said to have ca 200-400 fighters in Najaf central city. There has been 3 huge explosions, maybe SCUD he said (he remembered when Saddam hauled in a couple of SCUDs when oppressing the Shia uprising following Gulf War 1) and people say it might be missiles, which was denied by US military, blaming the Mahdi army.
The Americans are repeatedly sending in envoys to Sistani, who rejects Americans the permission to enter the city. They have now told Sistani that they are going to enter the city in four days after religious celebrations are over. Sistani has ongoing negotiations with Muqtada trying to make him leave the city. Sistani´s fearing grenade shelling and bloodshed and bombings amid the planned attempt to capture the young cleric. Sistani tell people to stay inside (they seem taking his advice) hoping negotiations will succeed. Shops and businesses are closed and there are problems buying food. Sistanis son now functions as a messenger/envoy, meeting them and leaving edicts or proposals to the Americans.
A lot of pilgrims from Iran are caught in this mess, sleeping in the streets, roaming streets trying to find shelter and something to eat. Pilgrimage in Najaf these days coming won´t be a very good idea..
I don´t know hw much of his info is Al Jazeerah or Al Arabiya, people are glued to the Tv set, but this story he was telling me two hours ago.
So,what will follow these four days? Najaf has so far managed to avoid devastation and much bloodshed.
Will Sistani be “collateral damage”? Will the city of Najaf and its inhabitants be victims of stubborness and recklessness like Falujah? Will there be a changed Sistani policy after these four days + one week? ‘