Ongoing crisis around Muqtada al-Sadr
Muqtada al-Sadr taunted US troops who are seeking to arrest or kill him. In his Friday prayers sermon in Kufa. Muqtada said,
“What sort of freedom and democracy can we expect from you [Americans] when you take such joy in torturing Iraqi prisoners?” asked Sadr, demanding that the US guards who have been charged with abuse be handed over to Iraqi courts for trial. Referring to Mr Bush’s apology on Thursday, the firebrand cleric said: “Your statements are not enough. They [the guards] must be punished in kind.
az-Zaman: On Friday, the first Shiite dispute emerged regarding how to deal with Muqtada al-Sadr and his armed followers, who are holed up in Najaf even as the American forces are surrounding the city. Sadr al-Din al-Qubanji, a leader of the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI, whose over-all leader is Abdul Aziz al-Hakim), wants to give Muqtada and his supporters a choice between leaving Najaf voluntarily and confronting a Shiite alliance of the grand ayatollahs, the Shiite parties and militias, and Shiite notables who blame him for their expulsion from the city. He implied that the Badr Corps militia might be ued to expel the Sadrists from the city.
At the same time, Shaikh Abdul Hadi al-Daraji, one of Muqtada’s supporters, said in his Friday prayers sermon in response to the position taken by SCIRI and the grand ayatollahs that Najaf is a red line that the Coalition may not cross: “Where are those who said that an attack on Najaf is a red line? ” This was to a joint Sunni-Shiite congregatin that included thousands of al-Sadr supporters who came from various parts of Baghdad, to the mosque of Abu Hanifah al-Nu`man where the prayers were said. It was in this light that Iraqi Shiites interpreted the statement of George W. Bush on Wednesday that Iraqis would take care of Muqtada al-Sadr, without the Coalition having to intervene.
Shaikh al-Daraji said, “We have come here to prove that the forces of evil will never be able to detract from Sunni-Shiite unity. He added, “Your enemy has come to sow the seeds of social chaos among Sunnies and Shities, but he has failed because Islam is one. After the Occupiers finished with Fallujah, they headed to Najaf to attack its symbols and its leadership. Yesterday they attacked Najaf, the site of Imam Ali’s tomb and Karbala, the site of Husain’s tomb.
He warned that the Coalition had targeted Muqtada, asaid that attacking Muqtada would be zero hour, and would set in motion the notables in all the provinces.
In Karbala, US troops used sound grenades in an attempt to defeat their enemy.