American forces forced to cut and run by crazy Muslim street preacher

By Sinclere Lee

NAJAF, Iraq (BNW) –
With the might of the U.S. army vowing to arrest or kill me for killing another Muslim preacher, radical Shiite Muslim street preacher, Muqtada al-Sadr, has put the U.S. army on the run out of the holy city of Najaf!

Iraq's national security adviser outlined a proposal on Thursday from radical Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr that calls for a pullback of U.S. forces from Najaf in exchange for the withdrawal of his militia.

Mouwafak al-Rubaie said he understood that the coalition "will honor and respect" the deal, although a senior coalition official told CNN that nothing has been agreed upon.

While U.S. military commanders around Najaf have not confirmed acceptance of the plan, they said they expect the Medhi Army to begin laying down arms shortly. The agreement does not directly involve the U.S.-led coalition military and is between al-Sadr and Iraqi religious leaders, they said.

The coalition military is not engaging in offensive operations around Najaf while the political process is under way.

The first phase of the process would have 100 Iraqi police officers from other parts of the country move into Najaf to secure the city, coalition military officials said.

The next step would be for 500 men from tribes in the area to move into Najaf to help temporarily with security while more Iraqi police and Iraqi Civil Defense troops are trained for the job, the officials said.

Until the June 30th handover of sovereignty to the interim Iraqi government, those men would remain under the command of coalition officers, the officials said.

The coalition military officials expressed skepticism that al-Sadr would withdraw his fighters from the city, but they do see it as a significant development.

The coalition would like to be responsive to the deal, the senior official said, however the coalition is not aware of all the details.

Al-Rubaie noted that the coalition was not involved in the negotiations..

Al-Sadr's proposal is an effort "to put an end to the tragic situation in noble Najaf," al-Rubaie said.

Al-Rubaie formally announced the proposal at a news conference Thursday, saying al-Sadr also offered to give Iraqi police control over government buildings in Najaf.

In exchange, al-Sadr said he wants the majority of coalition forces to leave the holy city, followed by a "broad discussion" about the future of his Mehdi Army in Iraq, al-Rubaie said.

"Coalition forces will reposition to bases outside Najaf while maintaining protective units at the CPA [Coalition Provisional Authority] offices and governate buildings," al-Rubaie said. "As soon as Iraqi security forces have assumed responsibility for public security and re-establish law and order, there will be no vacuum of security in Najaf.

"Until that time, coalition forces will suspend their offensive operations but will continue to provide security by carrying out some patrols."

'Chipping away' at al-Sadr's militia

The fighting in Najaf intensified in recent weeks after U.S. forces moved into the region to occupy a base abandoned by Spanish forces, which have withdrawn from Iraq.

Al-Sadr, who has been blamed for fomenting unrest, is wanted by an Iraqi court in connection with the killing of a rival cleric last year.

On Wednesday, coalition forces killed "a very large number" of Mehdi militia members and captured a prominent aide to al-Sadr, coalition military spokesman Brig. Gen. Mark Kimmitt said.

Kimmitt said the coalition is "constantly chipping away" at al-Sadr's militia, and won't stop until al-Sadr is arrested and faces justice for his part in the killing of Ayatollah Abdul Majid al-Khoei, a cleric assassinated in Najaf after the U.S.-led invasion in April 2003.

The aide, Riyad al-Nori -- one of several of the cleric's supporters accused in the ayatollah's assassination -- was arrested at his house late Tuesday in Najaf, officials said.

A senior coalition military official on Wednesday placed the number of Mehdi Army dead from the recent fighting in Najaf at "around 50."

Another 20 Mehdi fighters also died in Sadr City, a Baghdad neighborhood, fighting against coalition troops overnight Tuesday, the official said.

"Sadly, a very large number of probably wayward youths that were somehow convinced, corrupted, connived by persons such as Muqtada al-Sadr into picking up weapons against the coalition" were killed in Najaf, Kimmitt said.

Other developments

*Three Marines with the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force were killed in Iraq's Al Anbar province Wednesday while conducting "security and stability operations," the coalition announced Thursday. Al Anbar contains the volatile city of Fallujah. The latest fatalities bring the number of U.S. military deaths in the Iraq war to 805.

*British Defense Secretary Geoff Hoon has announced that Britain is sending an additional 370 British troops to Iraq, bringing the total there to 8,900. He added that "no decision had been made" on whether to send a large number of extra military personnel to the region.

*Hussain Shahristani, a nuclear scientist and Shiite who had been proposed as a favorite for a top job in the interim government, does not want it, a spokesman said on behalf of U.N. envoy Lakhtar Brahimi, who is working with Iraqis to pick the top interim officials.

*British Prime Minister Tony Blair has told the House of Commons he is "absolutely agreed" with U.S. President George W. Bush on the transfer of sovereignty to Iraq. He said multinational forces would remain in Iraq by the consent of the interim government which will have ultimate strategic decision-making powers, but there was no question of coalition troops being under anything other than coalition command.

*Former Vice President Al Gore has called for the immediate resignations of several Bush administration figures, blaming them for "the catastrophe that we are facing in Iraq." In the speech at New York University, Gore singled out Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and national security adviser Condoleezza Rice. (

*Two Russian civilian contractors were killed Wednesday and five wounded after gunmen opened fire on their bus south of Baghdad, according to a hospital official and the Russian Foreign Ministry

*The U.N. Security Council on Wednesday debated language in a resolution setting up a new government and security structure for Iraq. China offered a plan that could lead to the departure of foreign troops after elections in January. Under the proposal, troops from the United States and other countries could stay only if the newly elected government asked them to remain. A resolution draft offered by the United States and Britain sets no deadline.

*Brig. Gen. Janis Karpinski, former commander of military police at U.S. prisons in Iraq, said she does not know why she was suspended and insists the Army was aware of abuses at Abu Ghraib prison months before it launched an investigation.

*The human rights group Amnesty International criticized the Bush administration Wednesday, saying it has sacrificed human rights in blind pursuit of security, according to Reuters. The group called the administration's anti-terror policies "bankrupt of vision," citing what it called unlawful killings of Iraqi civilians, the questionable arrest and mistreatment of prisoners in Iraq, Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and Afghanistan, and opposition to a new global criminal court.

Iraqi cleric's aide arrested in Najaf

A prominent aide to renegade Shiite Muslim cleric Muqtada al-Sadr was arrested early Wednesday in Najaf, according to U.S. military officials and a representative of al-Sadr's office.

Riyad al-Nori was arrested at his house as Army forces carried out a series of raids in the south-central Iraqi city, officials said.

Al-Nori is one of several al-Sadr supporters accused in last year's killing of Ayatollah Abdul Majid al-Khoei in Najaf.

Militia loyal to al-Sadr have been battling U.S.-led coalition forces in the region for weeks. The coalition has said it wants to capture al-Sadr, who is wanted in connection with the killing.

U.S. forces also raided the house of Fo'ad al-Tofi -- an official spokesman for al-Sadr -- but he was not home at the time. Three of al-Tofi's brothers were taken into custody and are being held at a U.S. base.

Shortly after the raids, a U.S. C-130 aircraft fired on militia members who were shooting at U.S. troops, military officials said.

A hospital official in Najaf said 11 people were killed and 60 others wounded during the conflict Tuesday night into Wednesday morning.

Over the past two days, the Shiite holy city has been without water and electricity, reports said.

One of the most sacred shrines for Shiites, the Imam Ali mosque, was damaged Tuesday by some type of explosion outside its walls.

A U.S. military spokesman denied that coalition forces were involved in any fighting near the Najaf shrine and said they did not fire any mortar or artillery that could account for the damage, which was described as minor.

"We have heard different reports as to what caused it," Brig. Gen. Mark Kimmitt said. "Whether it was two factions fighting, or it was [al-Sadr's] militia firing from the cemetery trying to provoke outrage, we don't know."

U.S. officials have said they have taken great pains to avoid shrines.

"On behalf of the coalition, we can't tell you how much we decry attempts by Muqtada's militia -- perhaps by Muqtada himself -- to violate the holy shrine for his own personal gain," Kimmitt said.

"We will not allow that to go unanswered, nor will we allow ourselves to be provoked into an action that might have the same outcome."

Angry Iraqis gathered outside the mosque in Najaf to protest.

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