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Najaf and the Americans


FYA ("For your archives"): Am depositing here several wire service reports focusing on the American-led assault on the Iraqi city of Najaf, taking us pretty much straight through the present moment this 12th day of August, 2004. (See below.) As Tariq Ali noted in this morning's Guardian (U.K.): We "citizens of the aggressor states" bear a special sort of double or even triple responsibility in all of this. Not only in the obvious sense that 2004 is an American Presidential-election year. And not only in the sense that the resistance within Iraq to the ongoing occupation and "pacification" (How's this for an antiseptic term?) of the country requires the help of our resistance to it in the States and the U.K. (As eloquently described by Voices of the Wilderness just yesterday, for example.—See "Najaf and the Shrine of Ali.") But also in the sense that the dynamics at work in this monumentally complex global struggle give us citizens of the aggressor states no choice but to protect ourselves from all forms of possible counter-violence for what the goddamn aggressor states keep doing to others in our name. Surely, therefore, the simplest strategy for Americans to adopt—today, tomorrow, and indeed for all days to come—would be to stop doing unto others the very things that we wouldn't want done unto ourselves. So simple. And yet—so seemingly impossible. Deutsche Presse-Agentur August 12, 2004, Thursday 10:17:42 Central European Time HEADLINE: 3RD LEAD: U.S. in Najaf surround al-Sadr in holy mosque DATELINE: Najaf, Iraq U.S. troops in a major assault Thursday had closed a circle to within 200 yards of the venerated Imam Ali mosque in downtown Najaf, where witnesses said radical Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr was holed up with several hundred militants. Encirclement of the holy shrine by tanks and infantry and an assault launched in the nearby holy town of Kufa followed seven days of clashes in Najaf with al-Sadr loyalists. A senior U.S. official said the operations were designed to limit the amount of territory available to the militias, and to isolate them in the mosques that they have been using as headquarters. Most prominent among those mosques is the Imam Ali shrine, which contains the grave of the man Shiites consider the last true caliph, successor to the Prophet Mohammed. Heavy smoke, aircraft and ground fire were reported in the city centre. A centre of action for U.S. Marines and Iraqi forces continued to be the cemetery near the shrine. Witnesses described the fighting as the heaviest of the past week, saying it had spread to three other city districts. A spokesman for al-Sadr in Najaf predicted the militia would continue fighting. Al-Sadr, whom supporters said was in the Imam Ali shrine, has instructed his followers to keep fighting even if he himself is captured or killed. U.S. Brigadier General Erwin Lessel, deputy director of military operations, said "today's operations are designed to restrict freedom of movement of Sadr forces in Kufa and Najaf, and to further isolate them in these mosques which they use as a base of operations." "Militia use of these shrines as protective shields could lead to damage of these sacred sites", the air force general told reporters in Baghdad. According to the Iraqi health ministry, 154 Iraqis were killed and over 550 wounded in Shiite inhabited areas during the past 24 hours. AFX European Focus August 12, 2004 Thursday 05:28 AM Eastern Time HEADLINE: US-Iraqi assault leaves Najaf under siege; US bombs over Kut kill 75 – UPDATE DATELINE: NAJAF, Iraq (Updates to add Kut wounded toll; casualties across Iraq in last 24 hours) US marines have spearheaded a massive two-pronged assault to crush Shiite Muslim militiamen in Najaf today, hours after 75 people were killed when US planes pounded Kut in the wake of ground clashes. Nationwide fighting over the last 24 hours has left 165 Iraqis dead and an estimated 600 wounded. Massive explosions, tank fire and machine-gun fire boomed through the holy city of Najaf from 7.00 am (0300 GMT) as plumes of smoke rose from its historic centre — home to the Imam Ali shrine, revered by Shiites all over the world. US troops and Iraqi security forces have sealed off all main entrances leading to the mausoleum, said witnesses and an Agence France-Presse correspondent, while residents were being urged on loudspeakers to leave the old city. Two US helicopters have surveyed the vast Najaf cemetery, where fighters loyal to militia leader Moqtada Sadr have remained hunkered down during eight days of bitter clashes that have ravaged the city. US forces, backed by Iraqi security forces, appear to have mounted a pincer movement, seeking to trap the Mehdi Army inside the heart of the city. Meanwhile, the office of Prime Minister Iyad Allawi has issued a statement assuring that the holy shrine will remain safe from all attacks and said he has not approved the entry of multinational forces into the Imam Ali. "His excellency is holding the armed elements inside the shrine responsible for any harm or damage that may occur," the statement said. Yesterday, the US military said it was poised for "major assaults" against the Mehdi Army, as Sadr pressed loyalists to fight to the end, regardless of whether he was killed or captured. Shortly after the onslaught began, the deputy governor of Najaf quit his job in protest. "I resign from my post denouncing all the US terrorist operations that they are doing against this holy city," said Jawdat Kadam Najem al-Kuraishi. The imminence of the US offensive also appeared to expose fraying relations between the military and Najaf governor Adnan al-Zorfi. Zorfi denied troops were preparing for a final attack and vowed that US soldiers would not approach Najaf's Imam Ali mausoleum, after the military said he had given them permission to do so. Further north in the Shiite city of Kut, which fell briefly to Sadr supporters in the Mehdi Army's spring uprising against the US-led occupation, heavy overnight US bombardment killed 56 people, a senior medic said. Police said US planes pounded the southern al-Shakia district, a densely populated Mehdi Army stronghold, for two hours overnight. The health ministry said 75 people were killed and 148 wounded. Earlier, Kut hospital director Khader Fadal Arar said many of the casualties were women and children. "They destroyed 18 houses and killed 56 people and injured more than 110, some of them very seriously," he said. The bombs also flattened the local office of Sadr's movement, which a Sadr supporter said was empty at the time. It followed a day of fierce clashes in which Iraqi security forces sought to fight off insurgents who attacked the city hall, police stations and national guard barracks. With casualties on both sides, the Polish-led multinational force said it has "increased its combat readiness" to support Iraqi security forces. Meanwhile, two US marines were killed when a helicopter crashed in the volatile province of al-Anbar late yesterday, while supporting what the US military described as "security and stabilisation operations". The chopper plunged to the ground just hours after a US air strike on the Sunni Muslim insurgent bastion of Fallujah after marines came under attack, but the military said the helicopter had not come under enemy fire. Sadr's uprising, which has fanned out across Shiite cities south of Najaf and led to a British assaults on Medhi Army strongholds in Amara, has also forced the closure of a southern oil pipeline, halving Iraq's crude exports. Limited amounts of oil are being loaded at the Basra export terminal, despite ratcheted-up Mehdi Army threats against oil infrastructure if US troops entered Najaf. In addition, Basra's deputy governor has vowed to turn the southern city into a battlefield if the US military stormed the inner sanctum of Najaf. The National Security Council has said the closure of the southern oil pipeline has cost the country 30 mln usd a day, sending prices soaring on world markets. Amid the standoff against militiamen, the interim government looks set for a new showdown with disgraced former politician and Pentagon informant, Ahmed Chalabi, who returned to Iraq from neighbouring Iran to face counterfeiting charges yesterday. Agence France Presse — English August 12, 2004 Thursday HEADLINE: US military readies assault on Shiite rebels in Iraq DATELINE: BAGHDAD, Aug 12 US forces readied for a final assault on Shiite rebels holed up in the city of Najaf as a former head of Iraq's nuclear program said weapons of mass destruction had been destroyed there in the early 1990s. US troops and Iraqi national guardsmen have been training for "major assaults" against Sadr's fighters, hunkered down in the holy city of Najaf of central Iraq during seven days of fighting, the US military said. "Iraqi and US forces are making final preparations as we get ready to finish this fight that the Moqtada militia started," said marine commander Colonel Anthony Haslam. But Sadr pressed his supporters to fight to the end, in a statement handed out in Najaf. "If I die a martyr or if I am taken prisoner, I urge the Mehdi Army to continue to fight the occupation forces," he said. Twenty people were killed and 50 wounded when British forces, backed by air power, pounded strongholds of Sadr's militia in the city of Amara, medics said. At British headquarters in Iraq's main southern city of Basra, a spokesman said multinational forces had used "appropriate force in a very targeted and precise manner" against militiamen who persisted in attacking coalition bases. Further north in Kut, which fell briefly to Sadr supporters during the cleric's previous uprising in the spring, two Iraqi national guardsmen and three police were wounded in morning clashes, a doctor said. In the capital, the National Security Council said the closure of a southern oil pipeline, following a militia threat of attack on Monday, had halved Iraqi crude exports and led to daily losses of 30 million dollars. "If the entire pipeline is blocked, Iraq will suffer from a daily 60 million dollar financial loss," it said. The disruption to supplies on Tuesday helped push New York crude prices briefly to a record of more than 45 dollars a barrel. Although they later fell back, prices continued their march upwards in trading on Wednesday. At least 195 people have been killed and almost 1,000 wounded in Sadr's fresh uprising, according to an AFP toll based on government, hospital, Mehdi Army and US military figures. Meanwhile, Iraq's foreign hostage crisis shot back to prominence with the snatching of two Jordanians in 24 hours, as Sofia confirmed a body found in Iraq had been identified as that of a second Bulgarian hostage kidnapped last month. He was killed by a group linked to the Al-Qaeda network, along with the other hostage. Meanwhile, a scientist who headed Iraq's nuclear programme said deposed Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein had given up all weapons of mass destruction in the wake of the 1991 Gulf War. "There was no capability. There was no chemical or biological or any what are called weapons of mass destruction," Jaffar Dhia Jaffar said in what BBC television called his first-ever broadcast interview. Speaking in Paris, where he now lives, Jaffar — who ran Saddam's nuclear programme for 25 years — said there was "no development" of chemical, biological or nuclear weapons "at any time after 1991". He said he knew that for a fact "because I am in touch with the people concerned". Saddam's quest for weapons of mass destruction — and the fear that they might fall into the hands of global terrorists — was one of the prime reasons given for the US and British invasion of Iraq in March 2003. Nearly 18 months on, no such weapons have been uncovered — a fact that both US President George W. Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Blair have been forced to concede. Jaffar told the BBC he remained loyal to Saddam's regime until he slipped out of Iraq via Syria two days before the fall of Baghdad which signalled the collapse of the longtime Iraqi dictator. The nuclear scientist — who was educated in Britain, and has been described by some as the father of Iraq's nuclear programme — said he had been approached by the United States to defect, but was never tempted to do so. Meanwhile, disgraced Pentagon favourite Ahmed Chalabi returned to Iraq where he faced arrest for banknote foregery, as his political party refused to vacate its entire Baghdad headquarters as demanded by the government. "He is back home among his folks," senior Chalabi aide Mithal al-Alusi told AFP. "He will shower, have some tea and then resume his national duties." But judge Zuhair al-Maliky, who issued the warrant for his arrest along with that of nephew Salam Chalabi over murder charges reiterated that nothing had changed. "The arrest warrant still stands. Now it's up to the police and the interior ministry to execute it," he said. In Washington, a US official denied that a CIA agent had been beheaded in Iraq, as claimed by an Islamist website that broadcast a video purporting to show the decapitation. "The man depicted in the video is not a CIA official," the official told AFP, on condition of anonymity. "No CIA official is missing," the official said, adding that the Central Intelligence Agency knew the whereabouts of all of its agents. An Islamist website on Wednesday showed a videotape which it said was of a US national and CIA agent being beheaded by members of a Islamic militant group in Iraq. In the poor-quality video, whose authenticity could not be verified, a young Western-looking man is seated on a chair surrounded by five hooded gunmen, one of whom uses a long knife to cut through the man's neck and then brandishes the head. Agence France Presse — English August 12, 2004 Thursday 6:00 AM Eastern Time HEADLINE: Imam Ali shrine venerated by world's Shiites holds key to Najaf battle DATELINE: NAJAF, Iraq, Aug 12 US and Iraqi government forces risked a violent religious backlash Thursday as they closed in on one of the holiest sites for Shiite Muslims in their "final assault" on rebel cleric Moqtada Sadr's militia. The gold-domed tomb of Prophet Mohammed's son-in-law Ali held by Sadr's Mehdi Army has for centuries made the city of Najaf a place of pilgrimage for Shiites seeking his blessing. The religious importance of Najaf to Shiites, who consider Ali the true successor to the Prophet, was highlighted in early April 2003 when US troops invading Iraq entered the city of half a million. They were confronted by hundreds of angry civilians who blocked soldiers from approaching the shrine, which is off-limits to non-Muslims. On August 29, as religious and tribal unrest gripped Iraq in the wake of the US-led occupation, a car bomb went off outside the shrine after Friday weekly prayers, killing more than 80 people, including top Shiite political leader Ayatollah Mohammed Baqer al-Hakim. Hakim's mourning brother, Abdel Aziz, drew a parallel between his death and the martyrdom of Imam Ali and his son, Hussein. They were slain along with their supporters in 680 AD in a battle against the troops of the rival Ummayad caliph, based in Syria. "We will continue to follow the path of Imam Hussein, the path of jihad, sacrifice and martyrdom," Abdel Aziz, a member of Iraq's then interim Governing Council, told Lebanon's Al-Manar television. Najaf lies 180 kilometers (110 miles) south of Baghdad. Closer to the capital lies Karbala, where Imam Hussein is buried. After Mecca and Medina, which are holy to all Muslims, they are the two main pilgrimage sites for the world's Shiites. The mosque at the Tomb of Ali contains vast numbers of precious objects left behind by pilgrims over the centuries in a sign of veneration. First built in 977 AD, it was rebuilt after a fire in 1086 AD and again in 1500 AD. Its dome is covered with 7,777 panels of pure gold. Tradition has it that Ali's burial place was kept secret for centuries to protect it from desecration by the Umayyad caliphs and that a later caliph, the Abbasid Harun al-Rashid, chanced upon it during a hunting trip. It was he who ordered the breathtaking shrine to be constructed. For more than one thousand years since, the Shiite faithful have flocked to the site to pay their respects. On May 25, during an earlier standoff with the Mehdi Army before a truce brought a lull in the fighting a mortar round exploded inside the mausoleum, injuring 10 people and damaging the upper part of one of the main gold-covered gates leading to the tomb. The Mehdi Army blamed US forces, which denied responsibility. Earlier in the month each side accused the other of firing shots that punctured the dome. Near the mausoleum is the "Valley of Peace," the largest burial site in the Islamic world, a stronghold of the Mehdi Army that has been the scene of heavy fighting in the past week. An estimated two million Shiite faithful are buried in the 10-square-kilometer (almost four-square-mile) site. During the Iran-Iraq war in the 1980s the maze-like cemetery was expanded to cope with the huge number of war casualties, and army deserters were known to hide among the tombs. The late Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, leader of the Iranian revolution, spent 14 years in Najaf between 1964 and 1978, organising opposition to the shah's regime in Tehran, overthrown in the 1979 Islamic revolution. In 1991, when Shiites rose up against president Saddam Hussein's regime, Najaf was the site of fierce clashes and later needed serious repairs. Thousands of Shiites, who form Iraq's majority, were killed in the repression. The office of Iraqi Prime Minister Iyad Allawi issued a statement Thursday assuring that the holy shrine would remain safe this time, stressing he had not approved the entry of US-led multinational forces into the mausoleum. "His excellency is holding the armed elements inside the shrine responsible for any harm or damage that may occur," it said. And Najaf deputy governor Jawdat Kadam Najem al-Kuraishi has resigned in protest against "all the US terrorist operations that they are doing against this holy city". Agence France Presse — English August 12, 2004 Thursday 8:10 AM Eastern Time HEADLINE: Iran condemns US "atrocities" in Iraq, warns of new Vietnam DATELINE: TEHRAN, Aug 12 Iran on Thursday condemned the US "atrocities" in Iraq where American troops backed by Iraqi soldiers were locked in a deadly showdown with radical Shiite cleric Moqtada Sadr's militia. Foreign ministry spokesman Hamid Reza Asefi expressed Iran's "extreme concern" and "disgust" over the "atrocities" being carried out by US forces in neighbouring Iraq, news agencies reported. He condemned what he called "the total lack of morality" on the part of the occupation forces and "the duplicity of those who speak of democracy" but were holding up any genuine return of sovereignty to the Iraqis. International organisations must "react without delay to the events in Najaf and stop the massacre of the innocent", Assefi said. US warplanes on Thursday led an assault on Sadr's Mehdi Army militia in the heart of Najaf, after US troops and Iraqi forces sealed off the sacred Imam Ali mausoleum in the old city where fighters holding out vowed no letup. At least five civilians were killed and six militiamen injured in the latest fighting, according to Sheikh Ahmed al-Shaibani, spokesman for Sadr whose supporters have clashed with the Americans for the past week. Iran's Revolutionary Guards militia, the predominantly Shiite country's ideological backbone, called for Iraqis to close ranks in their "resistance" to the Americans and warned of a new Vietnam for the United States. "The Iraqi people must unite in their resistance to the occupiers and put aside their difference," it said in a statement. "The day is not far when the occupiers will suffer the same humiliation as in Vietnam," said the Revolutionary Guards, which the United States has accused of interference in Iraq since the downfall of Saddam Hussein. The Guards condemned what they called the US "violations" of some of the holiest sites in Shiite Islam, notably around the Imam Ali shrine that has been turned into a Medhi Army stronghold. They called on Iranians to stage massive demonstrations after weekly Friday prayers to underline their "hatred for the occupiers and their solidarity with the oppressed people of Iraq". Agence France Presse — English August 12, 2004 Thursday 8:26 AM Eastern Time HEADLINE: Arab League, Egypt voice concern over Najaf fighting, urge dialogue DATELINE: CAIRO, Aug 12 The Arab League and the Egyptian government on Thursday voiced their concern over the deadly fighting in Iraq's holy Shiite city of Najaf and called for the resumption of dialogue. Arab League Secretary General Amr Mussa issued a statement warning that any attack on the holy sites of Najaf could have "dangerous consequences". The head of the 22-member pan-Arab body urged "all the warring parties to immediately halt military operations under way in Najaf in order to allow the evacuation of the dead and wounded." US troops backed by Iraqi forces sealed off all approaches to the heart of Najaf, which includes the revered Imam Ali shrine, as US warplanes pounded militia positions and residents fled. The unprecedented intensity of the fighting in Najaf raised fears of a high casualty toll. Mussa also said he was "confident the interim Iraqi government could start an immediate dialogue in order to stop the fighting." Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Abul Gheit also issued a statement saying Cairo had "expressed its concern over the latest developments in Najaf … and urged restraint on all parties." Agence France Presse — English August 12, 2004 Thursday 8:53 AM Eastern Time HEADLINE: Massive US-Iraqi assault in Najaf, 165 killed in 24 hours of clashes BYLINE: SAMMY KETZ DATELINE: NAJAF, Iraq, Aug 12 US marines and warplanes spearheaded a massive two-pronged assault to crush a Shiite Muslim uprising in Najaf on Thursday, after 24 hours of nationwide fighting left 165 Iraqis dead and 600 wounded. US jets screeched overhead as massive explosions and tank and machine-gun fire boomed through the holy city and smoke engulfed its historic centre, home to the Imam Ali shrine, revered by Shiites all over the world. US troops and Iraqi security forces quickly sealed approaches to the mausoleum, as hundreds of terrified residents, urged on by attacking forces and the city's mosques, fled through the dusty streets. "Leave the city. Help coalition forces and do not fire at them," one announcement instructed in Arabic. "We are here to liberate the city." Armed militiamen fanned out into the deserted plaza outside the shrine as mosques urged the Mehdi Army to defy the onslaught and defend the city, while US tanks took up positions on roads leading to the mausoleum. US forces, backed by Iraqi police and national guard, mounted a pincer movement to trap militia leader Moqtada Sadr's fighters in the heart of the city and pound Mehdi Army positions near his home in eastern Najaf. By early afternoon, a spokesman said the militia was still in control of the centre around the shrine and vowed to fight until the bitter end. "We are ready to fight until the last drop of blood if this is what the Americans want," said Sadr aide Sheikh Ali al-Sumeisim. The government's pointman on security, Muwafaq al-Rubaie, headed to Najaf in a bid to meet Sadr face to face and end the assault on the holy city. Najaf governor Adnan al-Zorfi said the provincial council was waiting for Sadr to respond to an initiative to end the fighting, but dismissed any prospect of negotiations. "The situation is becoming unbearable, the militia must leave now," he said. Sadr has pressed loyalists to fight to the end, regardless of whether he is killed or captured. The office of Iraqi Prime Minister Iyad Allawi gave its assurance that the shrine would remain safe and that multinational forces would not be allowed to enter the mausoleum. Shortly after the attack began, Najaf deputy governor Jawdat Kadam Najem al-Kuraishi resigned in protest against "all the US terrorist operations that they are doing against this holy city". Meanwhile, the government said 24 hours of fighting across Iraq, mostly in the Shiite south and Sadr's Baghdad stronghold, claimed 165 lives and wounded 594. In Baghdad's district of Kadhimiyah and the British-patrolled southern oil city of Basra, thousands of people protested against US attacks on holy cities, held aloft pictures of Sadr and denounced Allawi. A British soldier was killed in the city when his patrol was struck by a homemade bomb — the second British soldier to die in 72 hours in Iraq. Further north in Kut, which fell briefly to the Mehdi Army in Sadr's spring uprising against the US-led occupation, heavy overnight US bombing killed 75 people and wounded 148, the health ministry said. Police said US planes pounded the southern Al-Shakia district, a densely populated Mehdi Army stronghold, for two hours overnight, but medics said many of the dead were women and children. "We never expected to see so many bodies. Our hospital beds are full and many wounded are still lying in the corridor," said doctor Khader Fadal Arar. The bombs also flattened the local office of Sadr's movement, which a partisan said was empty at the time, following a day of fierce clashes between Iraqi security forces and insurgents. Later, the Mehdi Army attacked a police station, killing one policeman and wounding nine. The interior ministry said nearly 100 of Sadr's militiamen had been arrested in Kut. Sadr's uprising, which has fanned out across Shiite cities south of Najaf and led to a British assualt on Medhi Army strongholds in Amara, has forced the closure of a southern oil pipeline, halving Iraq's crude exports. Limited amounts of oil were being loaded at the Basra export terminal despite ratcheted-up Mehdi Army threats against oil infrastructure if US troops entered Najaf. A shadowy Shiite militant group also threatened to kill all those working with British troops in the region. It was not clear if the group had any direct links with the Mehdi Army. The National Security Council has said the closure of the southern oil pipeline has cost the country 30 million dollars a day, sending prices soaring on world markets. Meanwhile, two US marines were killed when a helicopter crashed in the volatile northwestern province of Al-Anbar late Wednesday, just hours after a US air strike on the Sunni Muslim insurgent bastion of Fallujah. Associated Press Worldstream August 12, 2004 Thursday 9:49 AM Eastern Time HEADLINE: Arab states and Iran call for an end to fighting in Iraqi holy city of Najaf BYLINE: SARAH EL DEEB; Associated Press Writer DATELINE: CAIRO, Egypt Arab states and Iran called for a halt to fighting in the Iraqi holy city of Najaf on Thursday, as thousands of U.S. and Iraqi soldiers launched a major push to defeat Shiite militia holed up in the city's shrine and cemetery. Egypt urged the Iraqi and U.S. troops to employ dialogue instead of force in Najaf, and Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Hamid Reza Asefi said the world should intervene quickly to "prevent the massacre of defenseless Iraqi people." Iraq's top Shiite Muslim cleric, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, who left Najaf to London for treatment as the fighting began, said in a statement that his office is exerting efforts to put an end to the crisis. Lebanon's most senior Muslim Shiite cleric criticized the Iraqi government for allowing the American offensive in a city revered across the Shiite world. The U.S. military said Thursday it had doubled the combat power deployed to crush militiamen loyal to radical Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr in Najaf. The two sides began fighting a week ago. U.S. and Iraqi military officials said only Iraqi forces would enter the Imam Ali shrine, the holiest place in the city, and that Iraqi Prime Minister Ayad Allawi would have to approve such an operation. Explosions shook buildings near the shrine to Iman Ali, the cousin of Islam's Prophet Muhammad. The U.S. military accused militiamen of firing 25 mortar bombs from the shrine compound. In a statement released by his office and e-mailed to The Associated Press, al-Sistani said he was following the "suffering of the Iraqi people" in "deep sorrow and great worry." The statement said al-Sistani, who went to London last Friday, calls on all sides to work to end the crisis as soon as possible and to ensure it is not repeated in the future. "His office is continuing to exert efforts with all sides, Iraqi officials and others, to put a quick end to the current tragic situation," the statement said. In Cairo, Arab League Secretary-General Amr Moussa warned that the violation of sacred Muslim places could have "serious repercussions." Hours after Thursday's offensive began, Iraqi health authorities said five civilians had been killed and three wounded. U.S. forces estimate they have killed hundreds of militiamen since the battle began last week, but the militia dispute this. Insurgents allied to al-Sadr's militia have attacked police stations and government buildings in the southern city of Kut, leading to the death of at least 70 people this week. The fighting in Najaf is "a painful and sad shedding of Iraqi blood," Moussa said Thursday. "The violent confrontations going on for days in Najaf are not a positive sign for the near or far future of Iraq, and even beyond Iraq," Moussa added. Iranian spokesman Asefi said the attacks in Najaf and Kut were "inhuman" and accused the American forces of lacking ethics. "The recent attacks reveal the face of the occupiers that is hidden behind their false claims of democracy," Asefi said. Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit said in a statement his government condemned "the violence and force that will lead only to more destruction … for the brotherly Iraqi people." Aboul Gheit urged the warring parties to use "self-restraint and the adoption of dialogue to solve problems." In Lebanon, the Palestinian militant group Hamas said Najaf was being subjected to a "barbaric American aggression." "We call for the withdrawal of the occupying forces from all Iraqi territory," Hamas said in a statement faxed to The Associated Press in Cairo. Lebanon's most senior Shiite cleric, Grand Ayatollah Mohammed Hussein Fadlallah, criticized the Iraqi government for allowing the Americans to enter a holy area. "This government, which raises the banner of upholding the law, should have dealt with the matter through Iraqis," Fadlallah said in a statement, adding that the problem will not be solved by force Agence France Presse — English August 12, 2004 Thursday 9:50 AM Eastern Time HEADLINE: Shaky Iraq government playing with fire in Najaf mission DATELINE: BAGHDAD, Aug 12 Just six weeks after taking power from the US-led occupation, Iraq's shaky interim government is playing with fire by trying to expel militiamen from one of Islam's holiest cities, analysts said Thursday. On the eighth day of fierce fighting in the pilgrimage city of Najaf, US marines and warplanes spearheaded a massive two-pronged assault to crush a Shiite Muslim uprising. But as thousands of US troops and Iraqi security forces tried to trap the militiamen in the heart of the city, home to the tomb of Prophet Mohammed's son-in-law Ali, they risked a violent religious and political backlash. The interior ministry said police had been ordered to remove all militiamen from the mosque "whatever happens", although the government has been careful to insist US marines will not enter the shrine. "It's quite dangerous. Smoke billowing out of the Imam Ali shrine, reminiscent of what Saddam did in 1991 would be a very powerful image," said Yahia Said of the London School of Economics. "It would be very difficult to have a decisive victory in Najaf … without causing extensive damage and the higher the cost in civilian casualties, the less the political gain," he added. Najaf is a powerful symbol for Shiites the world over who consider Ali the true successor to the Prophet, not only the majority in Iraq, but also in Iran, where officials have been recently accused of meddling in domestic affairs. London-based defence analyst Paul Beaver agreed the government's military offensive in Najaf is explosive and government failure could cause mayhem. "It could lead to success for Moqtada Sadr as many other armed rebellion groups could come under his banner. This is the other risk factor." "Any risk to the shrine would not be tolerated by the Shiites across the world." But if Iraqi security forces succeed, it would deliver a strong message to other insurgent groups — precisely the aim of a government which has to restore national security to survive. "This is one of the first security challenges that face our new government. We need to be decisive, we need to be strong, we need to impose the rule of law," Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari said earlier this week. On the other hand, Sadr, widely popular among the impoverished and disenfranchised, also stands to gain. "You're damned if you do and damned if you don't. Both the Iraqi government and the coalition forces need to show they can stand up to the (militia), but it is also benefiting the popularity of Sadr," said Said. US support lays bare the government's inability to act decisively alone, a weakness exploited by Sadr. Disillusioned over a national conference already delayed and likely to be overshadowed if not cancelled by the fighting, any successful uprising could force the question of coalition troops leaving the country. The campaign has also exposed rifts within the US-appointed government. Vice President Ibrahim Jaffari, who commands considerable grass-roots respect, has heavily criticised the assault and demanded talks. But analysts see the Najaf campaign as far less tense than an aborted US mission in the Sunni Muslim bastion of Fallujah, where hundreds of people were killed in April before marines were forced to retreat. Sadr's fighters have proved themselves less effective at inflicting losses among US troops than insurgents in Fallujah, who attracted sympathy and admiration for their standoff against the occupation forces. The cleric has also provoked discontent among Najaf residents, furious that his militia have hunkered down in the city, driving away thousands of tourists and much-needed income.

 

Jay The Joke – Hate Speech and the Internet," ZNet, August 19, 2006 

"Jay The Joke – Hate Speech and the Internet," ZNet, August 19, 2006 

"Jay The Joke – Hate Speech and the Internet," ZNet, August 19, 2006 

"Jay The Joke – Hate Speech and the Internet," ZNet, August 19, 2006 

"Jay The Joke – Hate Speech and the Internet," ZNet, August 19, 2006 

"Jay The Joke – Hate Speech and the Internet," ZNet, August 19, 2006 

"Jay The Joke – Hate Speech and the Internet," ZNet, August 19, 2006 

"Jay The Joke – Hate Speech and the Internet," ZNet, August 19, 2006 

"Jay The Joke – Hate Speech and the Internet," ZNet, August 19, 2006 

"Jay The Joke – Hate Speech and the Internet," ZNet, August 19, 2006 

 

 

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