warrant issued for cleric
announces arrest warrant against radical Shiite cleric,
stepping up confrontation after clashes kill dozens.
Associated Pressuthor info
BAGHDAD, Iraq U.S. administrators in Iraq declared
a radical Shiite cleric an outlaw Monday and
announced a warrant for his arrest, heightening a confrontation
after battles between his supporters and coalition troops
killed at least 52 Iraqis and nine coalition troops, including
American officials would not say when they would move
to arrest Muqtada al-Sadr, who is holed up in the main
mosque in Kufa, south of Baghdad, guarded by armed supporters.
U.S. troops surrounded the city of Fallujah, west of Baghdad,
poised for a major operation in response to the grisly
slaying and mutilation of four American civilians by insurgents
there last week. A Marine was killed Monday in the Fallujah
area, the military said, without providing details.
The showdown with al-Sadr threatened to heighten tensions
with Iraqs Shiite Muslim majority at a time when
U.S. troops are burdened by the Sunni guerrillas
bloody insurgency. But American officials apparently hope
the Shiite public many of whom distrust al-Sadr
will not rally around the cleric.
Brig. Gen. Mark Kimmitt said the potential for violence
depended on whether (al-Sadr) decides to come peacefully
or whether he decides to come not peacefully. That choice
is the choice of Mr. Muqtada al-Sadr.
Al-Sadr, a 30-year-old firebrand who frequently denounces
the U.S. occupation in his sermons, vowed to resist.
The Americans have the money, weapons and huge numbers,
but these things are not going to weaken our will because
God is with us, he said in a statement sent to the
Arab TV station Al-Jazeera, which provided a copy to The
We dont fear death and martyrdom gives us
dignity from God, al-Sadr said.
Several hundred of his armed militiamen control Kufa,
holding its police station and blocking a road leading
to the main mosque.
Sheik Abu Mahdi al-Rubaie, a 35-year-old al-Sadr follower
at the mosque, warned that any U.S. move against al-Sadr
would be a very dangerous thing.
They will pay a heavy price. We will not allow them
to enter Kufa ... We are ready to lay down our lives for
al-Sayed, he said, using the Arabic word for master
to refer to al-Sadr.
U.S. officials said the warrant against al-Sadr
on charges of murdering a rival cleric was issued
months ago by an Iraqi judge and that Iraqis only now
want to carry it out. The crackdown on the opponent of
the U.S. administration also comes as the June 30 deadline
approaches for the transfer of power from the Americans
to the Iraqis.
President Bush on Monday portrayed al-Sadrs removal
as a step toward protecting democracy. This is one
person that is deciding that rather than allowing democracy
to flourish, hes going to exercise force,
he told reporters. We just cant let it stand.
L. Paul Bremer, the top U.S. administrator in Iraq, declared
al-Sadr an outlaw.
He is attempting to establish his authority in the
place of the legitimate authority. We will not tolerate
this, Bremer said.
Sundays clashes sparked by the arrest of
an al-Sadr aide who is also accused in the slaying of
rival cleric Abdel-Majid al-Khoei were a surprise
show of power by al-Sadrs militia, the Al-Mahdi
Fighting was particularly fierce in Sadr City, a Shiite
neighborhood in Baghdad, where militiamen ambushed U.S.
soldiers, killing eight and sparking battles that killed
30 Iraqis and wounded 110 others. It took a column of
tanks to restore quiet and force the militiamen out of
police stations they had seized after police fled.
Outside the city of Najaf, south of Baghdad, firing between
militiamen and Spanish-led coalition troops killed one
Salvadoran soldier and 22 Iraqis on Sunday.
Violence broke out Monday morning in another Shiite neighborhood
of the capital, al-Shoala, where militiamen clashed with
a U.S. patrol. An American armored vehicle caught fire,
and an Iraqi ran away with a heavy machine gun. A U.S.
Apache helicopter was hit by small arms fire and responded
with a barrage of machine-gun rounds, the U.S. military
Militiamen also traded fire with British troops in the
southern cities of Basra and Amarah, sparking fights that
killed three Iraqis, witnesses said.
Gunmen also held sway in the streets of the holy city
of Najaf, prompting police to flee their stations, said
the Spanish Defense Ministry, whose troops control the
region. Witnesses said the police later returned.
The Spanish bases in Diwaniyah and Najaf came under sporadic
mortar fire overnight Sunday but there were no injuries,
the ministry said.
Al-Sadrs main support is among young seminary students
and impoverished Shiites, devoted to him because of his
anti-U.S. stance and the memory of his father, a religious
leader gunned down by suspected agents of Saddam Hussein
However, al-Sadrs religious status is low, giving
him less influence than more moderate Shiite leaders.
And many Shiites see him as erratic.
The arrest warrant against al-Sadr is on charges of involvement
in the April 2003 murder of al-Khoei, who was stabbed
to death by a mob in a Shiite shrine in Najaf soon after
Saddams fall, said coalition spokesman Dan Senor.
Sundays violence was touched off by the arrest of
Mustafa al-Yacoubi, a senior aide to al-Sadr, on similar
charges. A total of 25 arrest warrants have been issued
in the case, and 13 suspects are in custody, an official
at coalition headquarters said.
Al-Sadr supporters also were angered by the closure of
his weekly newspaper by U.S. officials, who accused the
paper of inciting violence.
Kapuscinski/Detroit Free Press
cleric Moqtada al-Sadrs militiamen take time
to pray Monday as they protect Al Kufah Mosque in
Kufah, Iraq, after Sundays clashes with coalition