Shrine of Ali Damaged;
Uprisings in some southern Cities
Heavy fighting continued Friday between US troops and the Mahdi army in downtown Najaf and Karbala. The dome of the shrine of Imam Ali in Najaf was disfigured by four bullet holes, news that inflamed passions against US troops. US helicopter gunships blasted ares inside the graveyard that is considered sacred ground by pious Shiites.
‘ [US statements] did little to assuage the anger of many Shiites in Najaf. By early evening, thousands gathered around the Imam Ali shrine to inspect the damage. Some shook their heads in disbelief. Others mumbled prayers. “The Americans had better leave Iraq after this,” said Jassim Mohammed. Abu Zahraa al-Daraji, added: “The Americans have crossed a red line.” ‘
Yes, it is worth noting that Gen. Kimmit’s statement that the damage was done by the Sadrists, whether true or not, is unlikely to get much traction. The foreigners will be blamed for the damage to the shrine.
There were also major Sadrist uprisings in other southern cities. The Sadrists appear to have taken over Nasiriyah, and to have trapped 10 Coalition staffers and 10 drivers. ‘ “It’s an inferno,” Maria Cuffaro, a journalist for Italy’s state-run RAI network, said during a brief live report on Italian television late Friday. “We’re all OK, if a bit shaken.” ‘
Amara and Samawah were affected:
The article reports that ‘ And in the southern city of Amarah, al-Sadr aide Farqad al-Mousawi warned Iraqi police and civil defense corps members that they risked assassination if they helped U.S. soldiers fight al-Sadr’s militia. ‘
‘ Japan’s Kyodo News service reported shooting erupted late Friday in the center of Samawah, a southern city where Japanese and Dutch troops are based. The shooting broke out after armed al-Sadr supporters began sealing off streets in the downtown area. ‘
In his Friday sermon in Kufa, Muqtada
described President Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Blair as “the heads of tyranny” and accused them of ignoring the suffering of Iraqis in coalition prisons while drawing attention to what he described as the “fabricated” case of Nicholas Berg, an American civilian who was beheaded by militants. ‘
More of his sermon was reported elsewhere:
(AFP/al-Hayat): ‘ Muqtada also warned the Shiite movement, especially the Badr Corps, against standing with the Coalition. He said in his sermon before dozens of adherents (down from thousands because of the poor security situation), “I single out as a source of internal turmoil the Badr Brigade, which had been the biggest supporter of my father [Muhammad Sadiq al-Sadr] in the time of oppression. So what has happened? I do not know what has tipped the scales.” He added, “I single them out to draw their attention to these matters, especially that the enemy is sending spies among the ranks of our victorious army, and we no sooner uncovered them than they declared that they were Badr Corps agents.” [The militia of the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq led by Abdul Aziz al-Hakim.] He concluded, “I do not belive this. It is an attempt to ignite turmoil between us.” ‘
Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani again spoke through an aid insisting that both American troops and Mahdi army militiamen leave town.
Wire services report, meanwhile, that Hamid Reza Asefi, the spokesman for the Iranian foreign ministry, said Friday, “We are concerned at the intensification of the fighting in Iraq especially in Najaf and Karbala, and we condemn the killing of innocent Iraqis . . . The responsibility for the insecurity in Iraq falls on the occupiers, and we want the occupying forces to leave Iraq as soon as possible and give authority back to the Iraqis.”
Iranian television said that the US had crossed a “red line” by fighting in downtown Najaf and Karbala.
al-Hayat reports that Muhammad Husain Fadlallah, the grand ayatollah in Lebanon, encouraged Najaf’s religious leaders to continue to insist that Najaf is a “red line,” and that the sacredness of the holy places must be preserved before the Occupation of Iraq. He warned against “civil war (fitna) among the sons of a single column.” That is, he is also worried about a split in Shiite ranks, with Badr Corps siding with the US and fighting against the Mahdi Army for the foreigners.
Cole: While such a situation may be a short-term tactical gain for the US, it threatens the long-term destabilization of the Iraqi south, which cannot be a good thing for US Iraq policy.