[Marxism] Al-Sadr battles US troops, allies in Najaf; urges cease-fire

Fred Feldman ffeldman at bellatlantic.net
Thu Aug 5 17:48:30 MDT 2004

Cleric's militia battles coalition, leaving 16 dead
Al-Sadr calls for restoration of negotiated cease-fire

Wathiq Khuzaie / Getty Images
Militiamen loyal to radical Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr take positions
Thursday against U.S. troops in Sadr City, a Baghdad suburb.  
MSNBC News Services
Updated: 5:14 p.m. ET Aug. 5, 2004BAGHDAD, Iraq - Insurgents loyal to
radical Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr battled fiercely with U.S.,
British and Iraqi forces in four cities Thursday. A U.S. soldier, seven
Iraqi civilians and seven militants were killed and a U.S. helicopter
was shot down before al-Sadr called for a fragile cease-fire to be
Sheik Mahmoud Sudani, a spokesman for al-Sadr, said al-Sadr's office had
issued a statement saying he would observe the truce, which was agreed
to in June to end a Shiite uprising that lasted several weeks. 

Al-Sadr set a deadline of midnight for the end of fighting and the
restoration of the cease-fire, said Ahmed al-Shaibany, another
spokesman. If U.S. forces do not agree, "then the firing and igniting of
the revolution will continue." 

The fighting started in the holy city of Najaf, where al-Sadr has his
headquarters. Bloodshed quickly spread to other Shiite Muslim areas,
with each side blaming the other. Al-Sadr's men also fought with U.S.
troops in the Baghdad neighborhood of Sadr City, wounding seven
Americans; shot at government offices in the southern city of Amarah;
and clashed with British forces in Basra, where one militant was killed.

In Najaf, a U.S. UH-1 helicopter was hit by gunfire and crashed,
injuring the crew.

Iraqis said that at least seven militants and seven civilians had been
killed and that 54 others had been wounded in the fighting. The U.S.
command said insurgents attacked a U.S. convoy near Najaf, killing a
U.S. soldier and wounding five others.

Shaibany said U.S. and Iraqi forces had violated the two-month truce,
which restricted U.S. coalition forces from entering parts of the city,
including near the sacred sites. 

"We knew they wanted to invade it," he told the Post. "We had and have
to defend the holy city."

Car bomb kills 6 
Separately Thursday, a suicide car bombing at a police station in
Mahawil, 50 miles south of Baghdad, killed six people and wounded 24,
the Interior Ministry said. Attackers also reportedly ambushed an Iraqi
national guard patrol in Mahawil and killed a guardsman.

Explosions were also heard in central Baghdad, where rockets hit the
concrete terrace outside a restaurant at the Palestine Hotel. It left a
small crater and shattered windows but caused no serious damage and no

Another rocket hit near a checkpoint outside the hotel. A third round
landed, but it was unclear where. Gunshots were heard nearby. 

No injuries were reported. 

The violence is the worst flare-up between authorities and al-Sadr's
forces since a series of truces two months ago ended weeks of violence,
which began after the U.S.-led occupation authority closed al-Sadr's
newspaper and arrested a key aide. The newspaper was recently allowed to
start printing again, but tensions had been rising in recent days
between al-Sadr's Mahdi Army and Iraqi and U.S. forces.

People in Najaf said al-Sadr loyalists attacked a police station with
mortar fire, rocket-propelled grenades and gunfire Thursday morning.
U.S. Marines later moved into the area, and busloads of Mahdi Army
militants were seen entering the city, residents said.

The Marines intervened "to help the policemen protect the police
stations and the city," Najaf Gov. Adnan al-Zurufi told the television
station Al-Jazeera. He warned of "very bad consequences" if the
militiamen did not disarm and leave the holy city.

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