Iraqi Shiite Factions Clash in Karbala
Rival Shiite Muslim factions clashed overnight in this holy city, and several people were killed or injured, witnesses said Tuesday. Iraqi police surrounded the offices of one of the faction leaders. The Karbala clash appeared to be part of a power struggle in the majority Shiite community between forces of firebrand cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, a strong opponent of the U.S. military occupation, and followers of religious leaders who have taken a more moderate stand toward the Americans.
Our "friend" al-Sadr has been pushing his luck.
The trouble started about 10 p.m. when al-Sadr’s followers tried to take over the shrine of Imam al-Hussein, one of the principal religious sites in the city.
Bad move.
Witnesses said al-Sadr’s forces and those loyal to Grand Ayatollah Ali Hussein al-Sistani, Iraq’s top Shiite Muslim cleric, used small arms and rocket-propelled grenades during fighting that ended after sunrise. Al-Sadr’s forces withdrew to another mosque where they were surrounded by police. Residents said that up to 10 people were killed and more than a dozen wounded, but the figures could not be confirmed. Police were refusing to talk to journalists, and the atmosphere in the city, located about 50 miles southeast of Baghdad, was tense. On Tuesday, about 50 Iraqi policemen surrounded al-Sadr’s office in the al-Mukayam mosque. Dozens of members of al-Sadr’s militia, the "al-Mahdi Army," were barricaded inside. Residents said police were rounding up al-Sadr’s forces, arresting and beating some of them.
Goody, I’m liking the Iraqi police more and more.
U.S. and Polish troops set up checkpoints about a half-mile from major religious shrines and were carefully checking people for weapons.
Staying away from the "holy places" and letting Iraqi police handle it themselves.
In Najaf, where al-Sadr lives, aide Hassan Al-Garawi claimed the cleric’s forces had taken control of Karbala and denied that al-Sistani’s forces had resisted them. It appeared the comment was meant to avoid any conflict with al-Sistani, whose prestige and influence within the majority Shiite community far exceeds that of the youthful al-Sadr.
Maybe Grand Ayatollah Ali has also had enough of al-Sadr and will slap him down.
Meanwhile, about 100 people gathered at the main mosque in Fallujah, a Sunni Muslim city west of Baghdad, to demand the release of a cleric arrested a day earlier by U.S. troops. Sheik Jamal Shaker Nazzal had been an outspoken opponent of the U.S. occupation. The previously unknown "Hamza Platoon" handed out flyers to the crowd threatening more attacks on U.S. troops unless the cleric is released. "Sheik Jamal was arrested by the infidel American forces," the flyers said. "We warn the American forces and the Iraqi police of continuing to detain him ... we will respond to this dirty act with all our might."
"Yar, we be the Hamza Platoon, we bad!"
Posted by: Steve 2003-10-14