August 10, 2004


Massive Attack Feared, US Tells Najaf Residents To Leave (Islam Online, 8/10/04)

In an unprecedented move seen as a prelude to a feared massive attack on some of the holiest religious places in Iraq, US forces called on Najaf residents to evacuate their homes.

The call came as fighting between US-led troops and Mehdi Army fighters, loyalists of Iraqi firebrand Shiite scholar Moqtada Al-Sadr, raged for the seventh day, bringing about a halt in output from southern Iraqi oilfields and sending world oil prices soaring.

US troops in Humvees drove through the center of the Shiite city, using loudspeakers to call on civilians to evacuate the zone immediately and on Mehdi Army fighters to leave, reported Agence France (AFP).

Residents told AFP it was the first time US troops had called for a mass evacuation, adding that they feared a massive attack on bastions of Sadr's Mehdi Army in the city's cemetery and the shrine of Imam Ali, one of Islam's holiest sites.

In another sign an imminent massive attack could be on the making, US Marines have taken over as the lead force in Najaf from the Polish troops, according to CNN International.

"The decision to order the11 th Marine Expeditionary Unit to take over control in Najaf and neighboring Qadisiya from a Polish-led multinational contingent was because of the "deteriorated security situation" in Najaf, the US-led coalition said in a statement."

Well, we gave al-Sadr every opportunity to avoid this, but now we may as well kill him.

Posted by Orrin Judd at August 10, 2004 1:25 PM

According to the Iraqi blogs I've been monitoring:

The Iraqi police/guard commander for Najaf has given the OK to clean out the shrines if necessary. (Given the antipathy to any "infidels" entering the shrines, I suspect any cleanout will be done by Iraqi troops with the Yanks staying outside and giving support.)

Grand Ayatollah Sistani has left Iraq for heart treatment in London, and the other four Grand Ayatollahs in Najaf have left the city. None have said anything countermanding the permission to clean out Najaf, shrines and all.

If the street anecdotes in the blogs are accurate, a lot of Iraqi Shia have gotten fed up with Muqty and his thugs and want him gone.

The blogs also report news from Baghdad TV that about 1200 of Muqty's men have been captured in the fighting, of which 400 of them are known outlaws let out of prison (and handed AK's) by Saddam's men as the regime crumbled, and four appear to be Iranian "operatives".

Some blogs also claim tribal militias are assisting the Iraqi police; I have heard the last time this happened, Muqty ended up losing men courtesy of local vigilantes.

Posted by: Ken at August 10, 2004 8:20 PM

Moqti should remember the last Mahdi, who challenged the West, and his fate at Omdurman.

Posted by: narciso at August 10, 2004 10:04 PM