[Marxism] 5,000 in Basra protest attack on Najaf; Mahdi militia still holds great bulk of Najaf

Fred Feldman ffeldman at bellatlantic.net
Fri Aug 13 07:19:20 MDT 2004


FIRST STORY
GI Special 2#B29 ThomasFBarton at earthlink.net

Support For Sadr Grows;

Shiites Angry At Fighting In Najaf;

5000 March In Basra

 

Aug. 12, 2004 MARIAM FAM, Associated Press & 12 August, 2004 By Khaled
Farhan, (Reuters) & By ALEX BERENSON and TERENCE NEILAN, New York Times
& 12/08/2004 Norman Hermant, Lateline, Australian Broadcasting
Corporation & more Associated Press August 12, 2004 & BBC 8.11 & August
11, 2004, Todd Pitman, Canadian Press & 2004-08-11 Middle East Online

 

BAGHDAD: Iraqi Shiites expressed anger Thursday at a major U.S.-led
assault on a rebel militia in the holy city of Najaf, warning the
violence could spread to other parts of the country and damage the
political process.

 

"This will lead to revenge for the holy sites and for those killed,"
said Salama al-Khafaji, a former member of the disbanded Governing
Council.

 

In the southern Shiite city of Basra, nearly 5,000 al-Sadr sympathizers
took to the streets Thursday, demanding U.S. troops withdraw from Najaf
and condemning Prime Minister Ayad Allawi for his perceived support of
the Americans.

 

"Allawi and the governor of Najaf are responsible for this massacre,"
said Abed Jassim, a Shiite in Basra. "They provided protection for the
Americans to kill the Shiites."

 

Najaf, home to some of the most senior Shiite clerics and respected
ancient seminaries, has a special place in the hearts of Shiites.  After
Saddam Hussein's ouster, the city emerged as the spiritual and political
hub for Iraq's Shiite majority.

 

In an effort to avoid a Shiite backlash, Iraqi and U.S. military
officials said any assault near the militants' refuge in the shrine
would be led by Iraqi forces, many of whom have only minimal training -
in an effort to ease anger from the Shiite majority if the offensive
damages the shrine where many insurgents have taken refuge.

(As if anybody's going to be fooled by this particular silly bullshit.)

 

The U.S. military said Wednesday it was holding joint exercises with
Iraqi national guardsmen in preparation for the planned assault.  (A
little late for combat training?)

 

"Preparations to do the offensive are taking longer than initially
anticipated," said Maj. David Holahan.

 

Sheik Jalal Eddin al-Sagheer, a Shiite cleric, said he and others were
angry at seeing Najaf under attack, even if they did not support
al-Sadr.

 

"Let's say Muqtada is the pinnacle of terrorism and extremism, still how
can such a holy city with its special status be treated that way?" he
said. "No one can accept targeting people in that manner."

 

Al-Khafaji, who has taken part in mediation efforts between al-Sadr and
the U.S. and Iraqi authorities, said the military operations and the
loss of life would harm the image of the Americans and Iraq's interim
government. "This is not in the interest of America," she said.

 

Naseer Hussein, who works in Baghdad's mostly Shiite Kazimiya
neighborhood warned that fighting in Najaf could cause a rift between
Iraqis and the government, and create divisions among Shiites.

 

"I would sacrifice myself and anything I own for the sake of these holy
sites," al-Khafaji said. "We ask the international community to
intervene to stop this human massacre."

 

As news of the offensive filtered in, thousands of Shi'ites took to the
streets in Basra and a Baghdad district to protest. 

 

"Long live Sadr, America and Allawi are infidels," thousands of
protesters in Basra chanted.

 

A similar protest took place in Baghdad's Shi'ite neighborhood of
Kadhimiyah. 

"Allawi is the enemy of God," they chanted.

 

"We warn and say that all the cities will become Najaf if the shedding
of blood continues."

 

The demonstrations follow big protests in the streets of Nassiriya and
several other cities on Wednesday

 

Overnight clashes between insurgents and British forces in the southern
city of Amarah killed 20 people and wounded 50, according to Interior
Ministry spokesman Adnan Abdul Rahman.  The British reported two minor
casualties among their own troops. 

 

British troops clashed with militiamen for about an hour late Tuesday
when their tanks tried to cross a bridge into the city.

 

For three hours from 1:00 am (2100 GMT), British jets bombed three
districts of the city where militiamen are believed to be holed up,
damaging six houses and cutting off electricity supplies.

 

British tanks and troops were out in force in Amara after sunrise, with
Iraqi police hunkered down in their stations.

 

In the southern Hussein neighbourhood, among those bombed overnight,
British forces used tear gas, according to witness Saad Kadhim Mohammed.

 

Sadr supporters patrolled Amara, warning people via loudspeakers to stay
at home and announcing that they would impose a curfew from 7:00 pm.

 

In Baghdad, the Mahdi Army attacked a police station.

 

Army spokesman Major Ian Clooney said militants had also targeted
coalition patrols with mortars and rocket propelled grenades in the
southern cities of Nasiriyah, Basra and Samawah. 

 

"The insurgents are using cover and buildings to launch indirect attacks
rather than open conflict," he added. 

****


SECOND STORY

Pincer Movement Against Mahdi Army Forces:

Deputy Governor Of Najaf Quits, Denouncing U.S. Terrorism;

Deputy President Of Iraq Condemns U.S. Attack

 

The fighting between U.S. forces and Sadr's Mehdi Army in Najaf is part
of a broader Shi'ite uprising in at least seven southern and central
cities. 

 

August 13, 2004 By Nicolas Rothwell, Middle East correspondent, The
Australian & 11, 12 August 2004 Reuters (inc. By Khaled Farhan)  & 11
August 2004 By Donald Macintyre in Baghdad, Independent Digital (UK) Ltd
& Aug 12 (AFP) & Associated Press & August 11, 2004 Todd Pitman,
Canadian Press & August 11. 2004 New York Times & Aug. 11 (Bloomberg) &
Aljazeera.net 10 August 2004

 

Correspondents embedded with US troops in Najaf said a pincer movement,
supported by air power, began on Thursday morning, local time, with the
aim of trapping the insurgents in their hide-outs. 

 

Shiite militia loyal to Moqtada Sadr were in control Thursday of Najaf's
centre despite a fierce US military offensive as a senior aide to the
radical cleric vowed to fight to the bitter end. 

 

Militiamen were in control of a radius of about two kilometers (a mile)
around the Imam Ali mausoleum, an AFP correspondent reported from
outside the shrine at about 1:00 pm (0900 GMT). 

 

Drawing what he called "Najaf's military map", a Mahdi Army spokesman
said the city was under the control of al-Mahdi Army in the east, west
and south.

 

The north, towards Karbala, has been under the control of US and Iraqi
government forces and that is why there are continuing clashes in Wadi
al-Salam cemetery in the north, al-Shibani said.

 

He said: "The cemetery is now under the control of the Mahdi Army. We
escorted a number of media reporters and cameramen on Monday to the area
to show that the cemetery is controlled by the Mahdi Army."

 

"We are ready to fight until the last drop of blood if this is what the
Americans want," said the white-turbaned Sheikh Ali al-Sumeisim
surrounded by armed men. 

 

Mortar fire and sporadic gunfire broke out in the Najaf cemetery, with
one mortar round wounding two American soldiers.

 

U.S. troops said they were impressed with militants' tenacity in Najaf.
U.S. forces have pounded Sadr's militiamen for days, but have been
unable to dislodge them. 

 

"We keep pushing south and they just keep coming," said Capt. Patrick
McFall, from the 1st Cavalry Division. 

 

American officers said the command in Baghdad was preparing to move
another 1,000 American troops into the city, on top of the 2,000 already
available to commanders there, with a view to pressuring the rebels and
adding punch to a new offensive.

 

Two U.S. Army infantry battalions and an aviation battalion are working
with the 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit to prepare to put down the
insurgency alongside Iraqi National Guardsmen.

 

Tanks blocked roads leading to the mosque, while US troops broadcast
messages in Arabic saying the offensive was aimed at Sadr's militia. 

 

US armoured vehicles were seen entering the Al-Ishtiraki neighbourhood
in the eastern part of Najaf as US helicopters hovered overhead amid the
sound of heavy explosions. 

 

The Mehdi Army attacked an Iraqi police checkpoint in the city, killing
and wounding several uniformed men.

 

Najaf deputy governor Jawdat Kadam Najem al-Kuraishi quit in protest. "I
resign from my post denouncing all the US terrorist operations they are
doing against this holy city," he said.

 

On Thursday, a member of Najaf's city council resigned after an unknown
group kidnapped his father, Najaf governor Adnan Zurufi said. 

 

Jawdat Kadhem al-Qureishi's father was snatched earlier in the week, and
kidnappers demanded the councilman resign in return for his release,
Zurufi said. It was not immediately clear who the kidnappers were or
whether the incident was related to the current fighting. 

 

US marines claimed to control the city centre.  But hundreds of rebels
were believed to have dispersed in the tunnels beneath Najaf's cemetery.

 

The mosque broadcast its own message, urging fighters to defend Najaf.
"God bless our courageous mujaheddin," the message said. 

 

US military officials have made clear the rebellion will be crushed at
all costs, despite criticism by Iraqi Deputy President Irbrahim
al-Jaffari, who last night described the US onslaught as "vicious".

 

Ibrahim al-Jaafari, Iraq's interim vice president, called on the U.S.
troops to withdraw from Najaf.  "Only Iraqi forces should stay in Najaf.
These forces should be responsible for security and should save Najaf
from this phenomenon of killing," al-Jaafari told Arab TV network
Al-Jazeera from London on Wednesday.

 

In response to deputy president Jaafari's comments, spokesmen for the
prime minister, president and the U.S. military appeared surprised but
had no immediate reaction. 

 

Jaafari is a respected politician who heads the Shi'ite Muslim Dawa
Party, one of the largest Muslim groups in Iraq. 

 

 

The U.S. military said Iraqi forces were actively involved in the
offensive, although witnesses said American troops were doing most of
the fighting.  (Another really silly lie courtesy of the U.S. Command.
Every reporter, no matter how pro-Occupation, says the U.S. forces are
doing the fighting.)

 

The Mehdi Army raised the prospect of a bloody battle, vowing no
surrender and saying Sadr was leading the defence at the shrine and vast
cemetery, one of the Middle East's largest.

 

"The morale of the fighters is very high," said Ahmed al-Shibani, a
senior Sadr spokesman in Najaf.

 

"An American sniper did this to an ordinary civilian, 16-years-old,"
says this man.

 

"This is democracy? This was planned by the Iraqi Government and the
price is Iraqi civilians. The price is my nephew."

 






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