Skip to comments.Shiite leader al-Sadr defies Iraq gov't (orders followers to not surrender their weapons)
Posted on 03/29/2008 1:37:03 PM PDT by NormsRevenge
BAGHDAD - Anti-American Shiite militia leader Muqtada al-Sadr ordered his followers Saturday to defy government orders to surrender their weapons, as U.S. jets struck Shiite extremists near Basra to bolster a faltering Iraqi offensive against gunmen in the city.
Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki acknowledged he may have miscalculated by failing to foresee the strong backlash that his offensive, which began Tuesday, provoked in areas of Baghdad and other cities where Shiite militias wield power.
Government television said the round-the-clock curfew imposed two days ago on the capital and due to expire Sunday would be extended indefinitely.
The U.S. Embassy tightened its security measures, ordering all staff to use armored vehicles for all travel in the Green Zone and to sleep in reinforced buildings until further notice after six days of rocket and mortar attacks which left two Americans dead.
Despite the mounting crisis, al-Maliki, himself a Shiite, vowed to remain in Basra until government forces wrest control from militias, including al-Sadr's Mahdi Army. He called the fight for control of Basra "a decisive and final battle."
British ground troops, who controlled the city until handing it over to the Iraqis last December, also joined the battle for Basra, firing artillery Saturday for the first time in support of Iraqi forces.
Iraqi authorities have given Basra extremists until April 8 to surrender heavy and medium weapons after an initial 72-hour ultimatum to hand them over was widely ignored.
But a defiant al-Sadr called on his followers Saturday to ignore the order, saying that his Mahdi Army would turn in its weapons only to a government that can "get the occupier out of Iraq," referring to the Americans.
The order was made public by Haidar al-Jabiri, a member of the influential political commission of the Sadrist movement.
Al-Sadr, in an interview aired Saturday by Al-Jazeera television, said his Mahdi Army was capable of "liberating Iraq" and maintained al-Maliki's government was as "distant" from the people as Saddam Hussein's.
Residents of Basra contacted by telephone said Mahdi militiamen were manning checkpoints Saturday in their neighborhood strongholds. The sound of intermittent mortar and machine gun fire rang out across the city, as the military headquarters at a downtown hotel came under repeated fire.
An Iraqi army battalion commander and two of his bodyguards were killed Saturday night by a roadside bomb in central Basra, military spokesman Col. Karim al-Zaidi said.
The fight for Basra is crucial for al-Maliki, who flew to Basra earlier this week and is staking his credibility on gaining control of Iraq's second-largest city, which has essentially been held by armed groups for nearly three years.
In a speech Saturday to tribal leaders in Basra, al-Maliki promised to "stand up to these gangs" not only in the south but throughout Iraq.
Iraqi officials and their American partners have long insisted that the crackdown was not directed at al-Sadr's movement but against criminals and renegade factions some of whom are allegedly tied to Iran.
Al-Maliki told tribal leaders that the offensive in Basra "was only to deal with these gangs" some of which he said "are worse than al-Qaida."
Without mentioning the Sadrists by name, al-Maliki said he was "surprised to see that party emerge with all the weapons available to it and strike at everything institutions, people, departments, police stations and the army."
Al-Sadr's followers have accused rival Shiite parties in the national government of trying to crush their movement before provincial elections this fall. The young cleric's lieutenants had warned repeatedly that any move to dislodge them from Basra would provoke bloodshed.
But al-Maliki's comments appeared to reinforce suspicions that his government failed to foresee the backlash, including a sharp upsurge in violence throughout the Shiite south and shelling of the U.S.-controlled Green Zone, the nerve center of the Iraqi leadership and the U.S. mission.
Two American soldiers were killed Saturday when their vehicle was struck by a roadside bomb in mostly Shiite east Baghdad, the U.S. military said.
The growing turmoil threatens to undermine White House efforts to convince a skeptical Congress and the American public that the Iraqis are making progress toward managing their own security without the presence of U.S. troops.
With the Shiite militiamen defiant, a group of police in the Mahdi Army's Baghdad stronghold of Sadr City abandoned their posts and handed over their weapons to al-Sadr's local office. Police forces in Baghdad are believed to be heavily influenced or infiltrated by Mahdi militiamen.
"We can't fight our brothers in the Mahdi Army, so we came here to submit our weapons," one policeman said on condition of anonymity for security reasons.
He said about 40 policemen had defected to the Mahdi Army. The figure could not be confirmed, but AP Television News footage showed about a dozen uniformed police, their faces covered with masks to shield their identity, being met by Sheik Salman al-Feraiji, al-Sadr's chief representative in Sadr City.
Al-Feraiji greeted each policeman and gave them a copy of the Quran and an olive branch as they handed over their guns and ammunition.
On Saturday, Iraqi officials said they had received a phone call from Tahseen Sheikhly, the high-profile civilian spokesman for the Baghdad security operation, who was seized by gunmen two days earlier from at his home in a Shiite area of the capital.
An Iraqi-owned satellite television station, Sharqiya, broadcast what it said was a tape of the conversation, in which a man identifying himself as Sheikhly said he was being held "with a group of officers" at an unknown location.
"Our release depends on the withdrawal of al-Maliki from Basra and the easing of the military operations against the Sadrists in all provinces," he said. "We appeal to the prime minister and the Iraqi government to work with the Sadrist movement, which represents the popular base of society."
In Basra, U.S. jets dropped two precision-guided bombs at midday Saturday on a suspected militia stronghold at Qarmat Ali north of the city, British military spokesman Maj. Tom Holloway said.
"My understanding was that this was a building that had people who were shooting back at Iraqi ground forces," Holloway said.
Iraqi police said that earlier in the day a U.S. warplane strafed a house and killed eight civilians, including two women and one child. They spoke on condition of anonymity as they were not authorized to release the information.
The U.S. military had no immediate comment on the report and it was not possible to independently verify it.
Iraq's Health Ministry, which is close to the Sadrist movement, on Saturday reported at least 75 civilians have been killed and at least 500 others injured in a week of clashes and airstrikes in Sadr City and other eastern Baghdad neighborhoods.
The U.S. military sharply disputes the claims, having said that most of those killed were militia members.
Sheik Salman al-Feraiji, right, Muqtada al-Sadr's chief representative in Sadr City, takes weapons from a group of Iraqi policemen in Sadr City, Baghdad, Iraq, Saturday, March 29, 2008. Some 40 policemen in Sadr City handed over their weapons to al-Sadr's local office Saturday. (AP Photo/Karim Kadim)
A member of the Iraqi security forces kisses a copy of the Koran given to him BY a member of Moqtada al-Sadr's office in Baghdad's Sadr City March 29, 2008. In Baghdad's Sadr City, Sadr's main stronghold, a group of Iraqi police and soldiers surrendered themselves and their weapons to the local Sadr office, a Reuters photographer said. The spokesman for Iraqi security forces in Baghdad, Major-General Qassim Moussawi, sought to play down the desertions, saying he had received reports of only 15 men surrendering. He said those who did so would be court-martialled. REUTERS/Kareem Raheem (IRAQ)
It’s time to stop playing with this porker. If we ever want to end this thing in Iraq, we need to take out Sadr NOW!
Iraq's Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki (2nd L) shakes hands with tribal members in Basra March 29, 2008. Iraqi interior Minister Jawad al-Bolani is seen at left. REUTERS/Iraqi Government Office/Handout (IRAQ).
30 out of how many, my guess out of 400(10% attrition rate). 40 who will get their 72 raisins in heaven.
The MSM is spinning like Linda Blair again.
Works for me, neutralize those suckers!
Real shame the sissies in Washington balked at taking Fat Boy out years ago when first advised that it might be the smart thing to do.
Strike Tehran or Esfahan or whatever part of Iran that fat little coward is hiding out in and KILL HIM for once and for all!
I am so SICK OF HIS CRAP!!!
-Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki acknowledged he may have miscalculated by failing to foresee the strong backlash that his offensive, which began Tuesday, provoked in areas of Baghdad and other cities where Shiite militias wield power.
-Al-Sadr, in an interview aired Saturday by Al-Jazeera television, said his Mahdi Army was capable of “liberating Iraq” and maintained al-Maliki’s government was as “distant” from the people as Saddam Hussein’s.
-Two American soldiers were killed Saturday when their vehicle was struck by a roadside bomb in mostly Shiite east Baghdad, the U.S. military said.
-Without mentioning the Sadrists by name, al-Maliki said he was “surprised to see that party emerge with all the weapons available to it and strike at everything institutions, people, departments, police stations and the army.”
Just more fallout from the total mismanagement of the war from the outset that is being addressed now, at this late date, after American opinion has been reversed and after a couple of thousand unnecessary US deaths and thousands of catastrophic injuries. In this instance, it is the failure to take this Mullah out when it was both clear that he was a serious problem and it was possible. This failure is only one of many opportunities missed in this mess and the US soldier, their families, the US Taxpayer and long suffering Iraqis are all paying the price for this rank incompetence. JMO!
A pro terrorist article put out by the ap,who would have thunk it;)
Why, oh why is this guy still breathing?
I was pinging you while you were posting..
I’m praying this isn’t turning into Fallujah part deux.
He's in Iran. He's too chickensh!t to show his ugly mug in Iraq.
Why Mookie is still sucking air is an absoute mystery to me. The only thing I can think of is that he is working for us in some capacity by getting information on Iranian strategy. I hope its the case—otherwise we are total stoodges.
I thought this POS was sick or something and dying????Yeesh!
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