Tuesday, April 06, 2004

Getting worse - al-Sadr supposedly controls Najaf

CNN link

"Supporters of maverick Muslim cleric Moqtada al-Sadr controlled government, religious and security buildings in the holy city of Najaf early Tuesday evening, according to a coalition source in southern Iraq.

The source said al-Sadr's followers controlled the governor's office, police stations and the Imam Ali mosque, one of Shia Muslim's holiest shrines.

Iraqi police were negotiating to regain their stations, the source said.

The source also said al-Sadr was busing followers into Najaf from Sadr City in Baghdad and that many members of his outlawed militia, Mehdi's Army, were from surrounding provinces."

Same pattern again - target the political space of power. God knows what will happen if they have to get them out of the Imam Ali mosque - not a good place to be letting off the big guns, especially as the man himself has taken up residence in it. Did nobody see that one coming?Back to Iraq quotes the insane statement of Bremer's in the CNN story and points out that a fat 77% of the Iraqi population lives in the towns currently experiencing fighting.

In Fallujah,things are worse, and they ain't great in Nasiriyah either. In fact, the fighting in Nasiriyah sounds well-planned:
"About 500 Italian troops came under fire as they launched a pre-dawn operation to dislodge fighters controlling key bridges in Nasiriya.
The Italians returned fire and, after a gunbattle, regained control of the bridges, said a statement issued in Rome by the Italian defence ministry."

So - as well as the police station, the mosque and the governor's palace, those bridges that the US Marines had so much pain securing in the war (the last war?). According to Der Standard, three US soldiers were killed storming al-Sadr's party offices in Baghdad. Der Standard is also the first media source I have seen to pick up on the issue of al-Sadr's presence in the Imam Ali mosque as mentioned above - good work, Austrians. The BBC news ticker is currently announcing that "US soldiers control part of Fallujah after heavy fighting". Given that they are occupying it, this is one of those lines that says less than it seems.

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