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Shiite leader al-Sadr defies Iraq gov't

 
Niccolò
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03/29/2008 05:01 PM
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Shiite leader al-Sadr defies Iraq gov't
47 minutes ago

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.

[link to news.yahoo.com]

Last Edited by Account Deleted by User on 10/20/2011 06:45 PM
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:phamask:
dalak

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03/29/2008 05:30 PM
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Re: Shiite leader al-Sadr defies Iraq gov't
the usa just never learns. al-sadr can make life real ugly for them over there if he gets riled again.
the "emperors" have no clothes!
Anonymous Coward
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03/29/2008 06:39 PM
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Re: Shiite leader al-Sadr defies Iraq gov't
BAGHDAD - A feisty Muqtada al-Sadr, making his first public appearance since May, said in a TV interview aired Saturday that he was in almost total control of the Mahdi Army and that the "liberation" of Iraq was his militia's chief goal.

The radical Shiite cleric also said the impact of the U.S. presence on Iraq was more negative than that of Saddam Hussein's Baath party, ousted in the 2003 U.S.-led invasion.





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