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Iraqis Occupy Governor's Office in Basra - al-Sadr Targeted For Arrest

Iraqis loyal to Shiite Muslim cleric Moqtada al-Sadr today occupied the governor's office in the U.K.-controlled southern city of Basra, a British military spokesman said, after rioting Sunday in Baghdad and Najaf left at least 40 Iraqis and eight U.S. soldiers dead.

Moqtada al-Sadr, an Iraqi Shiite cleric who incited widespread protests and attacks against U.S. and allied forces yesterday, is the subject of an arrest warrant, U.S. spokesman Dan Senor said in a Baghdad briefing.
Iraqis Occupy Governor's Office in U.K.-Run Basra (Update2)

 http://quote.bloomberg.com/apps/news?pid=10000087&sid=ahDTAwlxl4zQ&refer=top_world_news

April 5 (Bloomberg) -- Iraqis loyal to Shiite Muslim cleric Moqtada al-Sadr today occupied the governor's office in the U.K.- controlled southern city of Basra, a British military spokesman said, after rioting Sunday in Baghdad and Najaf left at least 40 Iraqis and eight U.S. soldiers dead.

U.S. Marines began an offensive in Fallujah, in Sunni- populated Anbar province, AFP reported, citing the military. The town has been a stronghold of resistance to the U.S.-led occupation, and four American civilian security guards were killed there last week. In another operation, two U.S. Apache helicopters fired on targets in Baghdad, Reuters said, citing witnesses. One Marine was killed today in Anbar, according to the U.S. military.

Hundreds of U.S. tanks, trucks and other vehicles surrounded Fallujah, and Cable News Network reported Apache helicopter gunships were firing on unidentified targets in Sadr City, an impoverished Baghdad neighborhood from which al-Sadr draws support.

As many as 1,200 Marines were ready to storm Fallujah, Lieutenant James Vanzant, a military spokesman, told AP, without saying when the operation would take place.

The taking of the Basra governor's office was peaceful and British officials are in talks with the occupants, a military spokesman, who asked not to be identified, said by telephone from Basra. There were no reports of any casualties, nor of the number of people inside the building, he said.

Clashes

Clashes in the Iraqi capital and the city of Najaf between Shiites and forces of the U.S.-led coalition yesterday killed more than 40 civilians and military personnel, AFP said.

``What you are talking about is one individual who is seeking to derail democracy for the Iraqi people, who is seeking to undermine the process,'' White House spokesman Scott McClellan said today when asked about al-Sadr. McClellan declined to describe the unrest as a Shiite uprising.

Shiites fought with forces of the U.S.-led coalition yesterday in a day of protests to demand an end to the occupation. Supporters of al-Sadr, 31, clashed with coalition troops in Najaf, south of Baghdad, yesterday; at least 22 people, 20 of them Iraqis, were killed, Agence France-Presse said. Eight U.S. soldiers and 22 Iraqis were killed later in Baghdad.

Al-Sadr's Father

Al-Sadr's father, Ayatollah Mohammed Sadr, was assassinated in 1999 by the regime of ousted dictator Saddam Hussein. The son has criticized the U.S.-led occupation of Iraq, and in June formed a militia called the Mahdi Army, the New York Times reported. He doesn't speak with Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani, the country's leading Shiite cleric.

``This will not be tolerated by the coalition, this will not be tolerated by the Iraqi people,'' L. Paul Bremer, the head of the U.S.-led administration in Iraq, said in a statement after the Najaf attack. Protesters ``crossed the line and they have moved into violence.''

The U.S. plans to transfer power to a provisional Iraqi government by June 30, a target affirmed today by the White House. U.S. Senator Richard Lugar, Republican chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said yesterday the deadline might be too early. Joseph Biden, the ranking Democrat on the panel, suggested Iraq may be facing a civil war.

``I'm really haunted by the June 30 problem,'' Lugar, an Indiana Republican, said on ABC's ``This Week'' program.

Powell on Transition

Secretary of State Colin Powell, returning from a trip to Europe with reporters Friday, said the U.S. was waiting on a report from United Nations envoy Lakhdar Brahimi on how best to arrange the transfer. Brahimi, a former Algerian foreign minister and the UN's top envoy to Iraq, arrived in Baghdad yesterday.

``We'll have a better sense of what the right solution is for the interim government within a couple of weeks,'' Powell said. ``So, there is time to do it but, you know, the calendar is moving.''

Al-Sadr, in a statement yesterday, called on supporters to ``terrorize your enemy'' because demonstrations were pointless, AFP reported. The coalition last week closed a weekly newspaper in Baghdad run by the cleric's followers, saying its articles increased the threat of violence against occupying forces.

Shiite Majority

Shiites make up 60 percent of Iraq's 25 million people. The Shiites were prevented from holding any power under Hussein's Sunni Muslim regime that was overthrown in April 2003.

One coalition soldier, a Salvadoran, was killed in Najaf, according to a statement on the coalition's Joint Task Force Seven Web site. Twelve Salvadoran troops and one U.S. soldier were wounded when ``a large number of men, many dressed in black,'' traditional Shiite garb, attacked a Spanish-run base in the city, it said.

Two U.S. Marines were killed in a separate incident in Anbar province, the U.S. military said yesterday. Another soldier was killed in Kirkuk, Joint Task Force Seven said. Protesters also clashed with Italian and British soldiers, the Associated Press reported.



To contact the reporter on this story:
Alex Morales in London, or  amorales2@bloomberg.net.
Edvard Pettersson in Los Angeles at (1)  epettersson@bloomberg.net.

To contact the editor of this story:
Peter Torday at  ptorday@bloomberg.net.
Last Updated: April 5, 2004 10:02 EDT

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Iraqi Militia Chief Al-Sadr Targeted for Arrest (Update1)

 http://quote.bloomberg.com/apps/news?pid=10000103&sid=aZgFB.uAAfio&refer=us

April 5 (Bloomberg) -- Moqtada al-Sadr, an Iraqi Shiite cleric who incited widespread protests and attacks against U.S. and allied forces yesterday, is the subject of an arrest warrant, U.S. spokesman Dan Senor said in a Baghdad briefing.

The warrant, which has yet to be served, is for the ``brutal murder'' of cleric Abdul Majid al-Khoei last April at a mosque in the holy city of Najaf, Senor said. An Iraqi investigative judge issued the warrant ``in the last several months'' and Senor said it would now be enforced.

Senor and U.S. Army Brigadier General Mark Kimmitt, the deputy operations chief in Iraq, wouldn't answers reporters' questions concerning when al-Sadr would be arrested, or his whereabouts. ``There will be no advance warning,'' Senor said in the televised briefing.

Followers of al-Sadr rioted yesterday in Baghdad and Najaf, killing more than 40 Iraqi civilians and at least eight U.S. soldiers. Today, a mob occupied the governor's office in the southern city of Basra.

The immediate effect of the unrest was to raise questions among American lawmakers about the wisdom of handing over legal power to Iraqis on June 30. President George W. Bush said today that transfer would go ahead. A United Nations envoy is in Iraq to determine the best way to form an interim government that would take power.

`Test Our Will'

``The desire of those who don't want a free Iraq is to test our will,'' Bush said. ``We've got to stay the course, and we will stay the course.''

One Marine was killed today in fighting in Anbar province, part of the so-called Sunni triangle where resistance to the U.S.- led occupation is strongest.

``The arrest and trial are about justice and law and order in Iraq,'' Kimmitt said about the al-Sadr warrant. ``The Iraqi people want elections, not mob violence, to determine who will govern Iraq.''

Fallujah, an Anbar town where American contractors were killed and their bodies burned last week, is now surrounded by about 1,300 U.S. soldiers and Iraqi security forces in Operation Vigilant Resolve. A curfew of 7 p.m. to 6 a.m. is in effect, and traffic checkpoints have been set up, Kimmitt said.

The operation follows last week's killing of four U.S. guards under contract to the coalition. Their bodies were mutilated, dragged through the streets, burned and displayed, and photos of the carnage were published on front pages of newspapers around the world.

U.S. Army General John Abizaid, head of Persian Gulf military operations, has asked his subordinates to research ``options'' on more soldiers for Iraq, CNN reported today, citing unidentified senior Pentagon officials.



To contact the reporter on this story:
Todd Zeranski in New York, or  tzeranski@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor of this story:
Edward DeMarco at  edemarco1@bloomberg.net.
Last Updated: April 5, 2004 12:04 EDT
Sadr accussed the US of staging terror attacks 05.Apr.2004 12:07

under-reported

The US closed Sadr's newspaper, in which he was claiming that it's the Americans committing the attacks on Mosques and Iraqi civilians, trying to incite a civil war. Sadr was calling on all Iraqis to unite and resist the occupation, not to fall into the civil war BS.

Robert Fisk's latest is relevant
What would happen if the Americans left tomorrow? This has become the latest buzz-question in the US media. Civil war. Chaos. Anarchy. So we cannot leave. We have to protect the Iraqi people. Ergo, the Iraqi people don't want us to leave. We are protecting them from civil war. We are saving them from themselves. The problem is that many Iraqis would prefer to have the responsibility to look after themselves without our presence.

Simple. On 30 June, "we" are handing over sovereignty - a delicate and illusionary commodity - to the Iraqi "people" who will, no doubt, be profoundly grateful for our generosity. The Baghdad palace of the occupying power will then become the largest American embassy in the world and our appointed and unelected "Iraqi government" will become the beacon of freedom, liberty, equality and everything else we profoundly wish it to be. But now, let's take a look at the facts.

 http://fairuse.1accesshost.com/news1/fisk15.html
is the imminent 'civil war' for real?
is the imminent 'civil war' for real?