Sistani Arrives in Najaf
Dozens Dead in Kufa Mosque Mortar attack
Abdul Hussein al-Obeidi of AP reports that Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani has arrived in Najaf and gone to a house about a mile from the besieged shrine of Ali. He has asked the thousands of marchers with him to wait outside the city.
Caretaker Prime Minister announced a 24-hour truce in Najaf. American-appointed Najaf Governor Adnan al-Zurfi threatened that if the mosque crisis is not resolved in 24 hours, he will begin military operations again (the clip was shown on al-Jazeerah).
Iraqis in Kufa who went to a mosque to pray before walking to Najaf came under mortar fire, which killed dozens and wounded a large number. The Sadrists blamed the US military, which denied having mortar emplacements anywhere near the shrine. The US military suggested that the Mahdi Army has engaged in wild, undisciplined mortar fire. (This is true, but unless a clear target is identified near the mosque that they might have actually been aiming at, it seems a little unlikely that they would hit their own mosque with hundreds of worshippers inside.) The main source of violence in Kufa in the past 24 hours has been Iraqi police or national guards, who have fired on unarmed demonstrators.
Before Sistani’s arrival, protesters from Diwaniyyah to Najaf’s east who arrived at that side of the holy city had received fire from Iraqi police, and there were an unknown number of casualties.
Iraqi police also fired on peaceful demonstrators in Hilla who were heading for Najaf, killing at least two and wounding 23, according to Australian Broadcasting.
Al-Jazeerah is quoting ccasualties during the previous 24 hours from Iraqi health officials as 74 dead, 300 wounded.
Tony Karon at the Time Magazine weblog, has a fine overview of the situation which does an excellent job of explaining Sistani’s political dilemma and the way he is trying to resolve it.