3,000 Demonstrate in Tikrit for Saddam Return
Muqtada: US DoD has File on Shiite Messiah
The Associated Press reports Friday’s major events in Iraq:
‘ In the city of Tikrit north of Baghdad, 3,000 persons came out on Friday to demonstrate for the return of Saddam Hussein to power. Tikrit is his birthplace. ‘
In the mixed Hurriyah district of Baghdad, guerrillas attacked Sunni Arab homes and mosques. The guerrillas shot down 4 persons.
Muqtada al-Sadr called for a joint Sunni-Shiite nonviolent campaign against the presence of US troops in Iraq.
In a worrisome sign that Muqtada al-Sadr has gone deep into an apocalyptic sense of the end of the world [Ar.], al-Zaman reports that the young nationalist Shiite cleric maintained that the US Department of Defense has compiled an enormous file on the hidden Twelfth Imam, that is virtually complete save that it lacks his photograph.
[For Shiite Muslims, the Twelfth Imam or Imam Mahdi is a little like Jesus Christ for evangelical Christians. Shiites believe that the Imam was translated by God into a supernatural realm, from which he secretly rules the world and from which he will one day return to restore the world to justice.]
Al-Sadr said during his Friday prayer sermon in Kufa that “The United States has been preparing for ten years a rapid reaction force against the awaited Imam Mahdi and the US provoked the Gulf War so as to fill the region with military outposts for this purpose.”
He said that he had not stood against the elections held under conditions of foreign military occupation, because he wanted to see a political opposition to the Occupation develop. He said that nevertheless, conflicts between him and the Americans had continued and would continue.
He added, “I want it to be a peaceful war against them. I do not want a single drop of blood to be spilled, since [Iraqi lives] are dear to me. Fight them with a popular, nonviolent, political war.”
Of the recent arrest in Najaf by the US forces of his lieutenant, Salah al-Ubaidi, Muqtada alleged, “This is an extension of the attacks on Islam.”
He added, “Have you asked yourselves what the US has given the Iraqi people save the killing and destruction that you see? . . . That is only a preparation for the advent of the Imam Mahdi.”
Oliver Poole reports from Baghdad that the Mahdi Army militia of Muqtada al-Sadr had taken over gasoline stations in Baghdad and were smuggling petroleum from them, earning $1 mn. a day. Apparently the US considers the Sadrists’ control of the Ministry of Transportation worrisome in this regard. Muqtada seems to be losing control of local branches of the Mahdi Army, often to Shiite clerics who have taken a more radical position vis-a-vis the new government and the Americans than has he. An example is Abu Dara’ in Baghdad, said to be extremely violent
In addition, Reuters reports 18 killed and dozens wounded in Iraq’s civil war. One of the dead was a US GI. Among the major incidents:
‘ BAGHDAD – Two car bombs in Shi’ite districts of southern Baghdad wounded 16 people late on Friday, an Interior Ministry source said. Five were hurt in a market in the Abu Chehr district and 11 in a street near an Agriculture Ministy office in Zaafaraniya . . .
BAGHDAD – Police found 10 bodies [AP says 17], including those of two women, in different parts of Baghdad. Most bore signs of torture and had been shot, police said. The two women were found in the western Shi’ite district of Shula. None of the bodies was immediately identified. ‘
US military commanders in Baghdad want 3,000 more Iraq troops to join the current operation, but have been unable to get them because Iraqi soldiers refuse to leave their regional posts for the capital.