Continued Violence in Iraq
Major violence wracked Najaf again on Saturday. Mahdi militiamen launched mortar shells at US military positions, and they fired back, starting a battle that lasted for about 45 minutes. AC-130s fired their cannons at Mahdi Army positions in the sacred Valley of Peace cemetery near the holy shrine of Ali.
There did not actually seem to be much progress in the supposed turning over of the Shrine of Ali to representatives of Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani. They insisted that the Mahdi Army fighters vacate the shrine first. The latter seem to have no intention of actually leaving in greater numbers than they already have. Al-Jazeerah says that one of Muqtada’s spokesmen said that even after the “handover,” the Mahdi Army fighters expected to continue to “guard” the shrine.
Comparing the al-Hayat account with the Los Angeles Times article by David Holley and Edmund Sanders (Sanders is embedded in Najaf) shows the difference in information and sensibility between what is reported in the Western press and what appears in Arabic.
Al-Hayat writes that “the fighting extended to Kufa, where American missiles struck the historic Mosque of Maytham al-Tammar, destroying part of it.”
The LA Times story says:
‘ Earlier in the morning, several hundred Marines swarmed a complex of buildings in Kufa, about 500 yards west of the main Kufa Mosque, which military officials suspect that al-Sadr’s militia is using. After a heavy firefight, AC-130 warplanes bombed the buildings in a series of loud explosions heard for miles.
Later, U.S. troops raided the main Kufa police station and detained about 29 Iraqis found in a basement. Some of the men claimed they were being held prisoner by al-Sadr’s forces. ‘
The American report says nothing about damage to the Maytham Mosque. Najaf and Kufa are key sites of early Islam, and the religious structures in them are deeply meaningful to Shiites.
There was violence again all over Iraq, as there has been most recent days, though it has been overshadowed by the dramatic events in Najaf.
Guerrillas bombed and set afire an oil pipeline southwest of Basra. It had already been shut down because of Mahdi Army threats to target it in revenge for the assault on Muqtada’s men in Najaf.
An RPG attack on a US military vehicle killed one American soldier and wounded two others in Bahgdad. That brings the death toll of the US military in Iraq to 949.
Just outside the southern Shiite city of Hillah, guerrillas detonated a car bomb near a Polish military convoy, killing one Polish soldier and wounding six others.
The Gulf Daily lists several further incidents:
In Ramadi, guerrillas shot a senior policeman, Col. Saad Samir al-Dulaimi, to death as he left home.
Guerillas in Baquba detonated a roadside bomb, killing a peddler and wounding five garbagemen.
In Mosul, guerrillas exploded a roadside bomb, killing an Iraqi national guardsman and wounding two others, along with 3 civilians.
In Tall Afar, guerrillas fired on the home of the Mosul deputy governor, killing his nephew. The official and his son were wounded but in stable condition.