Mahdi Army Kills 3 US Troops in Diwaniyah
Clashes in Karbala, Najaf
Will Abu Ghuraib affect the Muqtada al-Sadr Issue?
Mopping up operations continue by the US military against the Mahdi Army, according to Reuters. On Wednesday, US troops assaulted two buildings in Diwaniyah that had been used by Mahdi Army fighters to attack US forces the previous day. In the course of the fight, Mahdi Army guerrillas killed three US troops. ‘ The operation also included a raid on a building housing Sadr’s office and an adjacent building by soldiers from the 1st Armoured Division and the 2nd Armoured Cavalry Regiment, the statement said. ‘ This comes after similar attacks on Sadrist sites and personalities in Hillah.
Scheherazade Faramarzi of AP reports that US troops raided several buildings in Karbala Tuesday night/Wednesday morning where Mahdi Army fighters had been stockpiling arms, and killed 10 Sadrist fighters who fired on Us forces. One US soldier was killed at a checkpoint by a dump truck driver who was trying ram it.
US forces destroyed a van being loaded with weapons outside Kufa, killing 5 Iraqis.
A firefight broke out between 50 Mahdi Army fighters and US troops outside a cemetery, from which militiamen had ambushed them. Cemeteries at Najaf are holy, and people bring loved ones there to be buried near the tomb of Imam Ali from all over the world. The US maintains that the Mahdi Army is stockpiling weapons in the massive cemetery (5 million graves).
.Received the following (take with grain of salt, since it just reflects rumors in Najaf):
Called Najaf yesterday. Resentment towards Moqtada still strong. They started firing against Americans at 10 – 03 at night. Americans spot and strike back with helicopters injuring and killing civilians on each occasion. My friend reports a helicopter shot down at Kufa. Cannot confirm his info.
Another reader wrote:
“ Everyone I speak to in Iraq including . . . a Sunni and a former Ba’ath party member by virtue of having worked as a school Principal thinks that the charges against Moqtada should be dropped even if they disagree vehemently with his politics and his methods. [She] . . . says, “they sit cross legged on the floor like it’s a thousand years ago” She has utter contempt for the young theocrats but still sympathizes with the cause of an Iraqi accused on trumped up charges by foreigners. When US troops drive by the children chant Ash, Ash Ash Al-Sadr (long live Al-Sadr not because they support him, but because they know the Americans hate him). I can only imagine the chants and the number of posters if they suceed in capturing or killing him.
” . . . US opposition to Moqtada should be made on the basis of political discourse regarding the merits or harms of a theocratic state, but that the US is so totally lacking in credibility after Abu Ghuraib that no Iraqi will believe their accusations nor will they tolerate the spectacle of a Sayyid especially the son of a Marja` behind led away in hand cuffs to be placed in the custody of US MP’s and interrogated by US intelligence. The best the US can hope for is that he forms a political party and gets about 10%-20% of vote in parliament making him a player in Iraqi politics, but hardly in control of things. If they continue on this course his movement will become an guerrilla insurgency following his martyrdom or imprisonment. Thay will undoubtably gain enough support in the Shia community to make Iraq ungovernable and inflict so many casualties on the American armed forces that we will have to withdraw in shame setting the stage for an Iranian backed theocracy. “