Supreme Council Calls for Shiite Revolt

M. Junaid Alam redjaguar at attbi.com
Wed Mar 26 10:24:46 MST 2003


I knew these guys were being opportunistic, but the time doesn't really
seem particularly opportune.
--
Iraqi Shi'ite Opposition Calls for Revolt
Wed March 26, 2003 12:05 PM ET

ZUBAYR, Iraq (Reuters) - Unrest rippled in the Iraqi southern city of
Basra on Wednesday but it was unclear how serious or widespread the
opposition was to the ruling Baath party of President Saddam Hussein.
As an Iraqi Shi'ite opposition group called for the Iraqi people to
revolt against Saddam, a British minister and military officers said
some unrest was evident and it appeared that local supporters of the
president had been firing on their own people.

But correspondents in Basra for Qatar's Al-Jazeera television and for
Abu Dhabi Television reported on Wednesday they had seen no signs of
unrest.

Al-Jazeera reporter Mohammed al-Abdallah said: "The streets of Basra are
very calm and there are no indications of violence or riots. There are
no signs of the reported uprising.

"All we can hear are distant explosions in the southeast, and we believe
fighting is going on there."

Britain's defense minister said there had been disturbances in Basra,
with residents "rising up" against Baghdad and Iraqi government militia
attacking them.

"Whether it is still happening remains unclear," Defense Secretary Geoff
Hoon told BBC radio in London.

Hoon said: "Certainly there have been disturbances with local people
rising up against the regime.

"We know that there have been attempts by regime militia to attack those
people, their own people, to attack them with mortars, machinegun fire,
rifles and so on."

He said British forces stationed around Basra, a Shi'ite Muslim city
with a history of opposition to the Sunni-dominated Iraqi government,
had not witnessed the uprising at first hand but had learned of it
through "various sources."

Basra was the scene of a failed Shi'ite insurrection after the 1991 Gulf
War.

An opposition group leader, Mohsen Hakim, said widespread demonstrations
had been held in parts of Basra on Tuesday.

Hakim, of the Tehran-based Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in
Iraq (SCIRI), said there had been clashes between local people and the
security forces.

Many civilians were injured, he said.

"Opposition groups ... ask the Iraqi nation to be fully prepared to rise
against Iraq's dictatorial Baath regime, to free cities and villages,"
he said.

SCIRI spokesman Abu Islam also said earlier there had been disturbances
in Basra on Tuesday, but he did not think these added up to a popular
uprising.

Basra is Iraq's second largest city and many of its people have been cut
off from water supplies for several days, with aid agencies warning of a
humanitarian crisis developing there.

The International Committee of the Red Cross said on Wednesday that
technicians and ICRC engineers had managed to start up three out of six
back-up generators for the water plane but more spare parts were needed.

"The ICRC estimates that 50 percent of the city's approximately 1.5
million inhabitants now have access to drinking water."


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