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Johnny Blaze 47
08-13-2004, 02:23 AM
Al-Sadr wounded in Najaf clashes
Radical cleric treated at mosque, should recover


BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) -- Radical Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr suffered shrapnel wounds to his arm and chest during Friday fighting in Najaf while he was at the Imam Ali mosque, according to spokesman Sayed Hazim al-Arajy in Baghdad.

Insurgents loyal to al-Sadr have been battling U.S. and Iraqi forces in the Shia holy city for the past week.

Al-Sadr was treated at the mosque and is expected to make a full recovery, al-Arajy said.

The mosque is a holy Shiite Muslim site. Thousands of al-Sadr loyalists are holed up there, Iraqi authorities say, and have been attacking their forces with mortars and laying land mines in the sacred compound.

On Thursday, U.S. Marines in Najaf raided al-Sadr's house, seized weapons and obliterated a nearby building with a 500-pound bomb to clear out pockets of resistance held by his militia.

The cleric was not found in the raid on his home.

A senior military official, referring to the raid on al-Sadr's house, told CNN that "we had no information that he was there" and echoed previous statements that operations in Najaf were not targeting or attempting to capture or kill al-Sadr.

Iraqi forces surround the mosque site but do not plan to storm it. Great caution is being taken not to disturb that site, one of the holiest in Islam, military sources said.

Marines also raided what had been a maternity clinic near al-Sadr's house. They came under heavy fire but seized a cache of arms as they secured the area.

Next, they called in an air strike on what had been a school building between the clinic and al-Sadr's house. The building was destroyed by a 500-pound bomb.

U.S. and Iraqi forces Thursday started what was earlier called a major offensive in Najaf after seven days fighting the Mehdi Army militants. A senior official later altered that description, downplaying the actions.

The official said that Thursday's military actions were a continuation of operations that have been going on all week, calling the latest a "clearing" operation for taking out the remaining fighters.

He called the fighting light to moderate and said there have been no reports of U.S. casualties thus far Thursday.

The thick black smoke above Najaf and sounds of machine-gun and artillery fire gave the impression of fierce warfare. The military assault included tanks, heavy weapons and armored vehicles, with helicopter gunships patrolling overhead.

"The Mehdi militia forces have been confined to a fairly small portion in the center of the city of Najaf. They have attacked Iraqi police stations near there, but the Iraqi police have decisively repelled each attack," said Marine Lt. Col. Thomas Johnson.

Scores of deaths have been reported in Najaf and other al-Sadr strongholds.

In Najaf, hospital officials reported that wards have been crowded with civilians caught in the crossfire. Some people have fled the city but others have sought safety at home.

On the other hand, Johnson said there is "relative calm in about 80 percent of the city as residents carry out their usual routines."

The Najaf offensive has generated protests. Street demonstrations went on in Baghdad, a Shiite political coalition in Najaf denounced the offensive, and Iran and the Arab states have called for a cease-fire. An al-Sadr official in Baghdad is alleging that U.S. troops killed ambulance drivers and destroyed holy sites.

There have been up to 2,000 Marines in Najaf and about 1,800 soldiers from the Iraqi National Guard in the area, U.S. military officials said. The U.S. Army's 1st Cavalry Division has also taken up positions in the city.

The fighting has spread beyond Najaf.

At least 71 members of insurgent militia members have died and another 380 have been wounded in clashes across Iraq with U.S.-led multinational forces, including Iraqi security forces, during the 24-hour period ending at 9 a.m. Thursday, the Iraqi Health Ministry said.

Saad al-Amili, the ministry's executive director, listed these casualty figures: Baghdad -- 25 killed, 99 wounded; Najaf -- 25 killed, 153 wounded; Amara -- 14 killed, 76 wounded; and Diwaniya -- seven killed, 52 wounded.

Sheikh Salah al-Ubeidi, an al-Sadr spokesman in Baghdad, on Thursday said al-Sadr "is inside Najaf" and is refusing to leave. He said al-Sadr is prepared to be killed with his followers or to help bring peace to and remove the troops from Najaf.

Al-Ubeidi described conditions in war-torn Najaf as "very bad" and claimed that "very severe" bombing from the multinational forces destroyed "several holy places" and struck civilian sites.

www.cnn.com (http://www.cnn.com)

Joe Chalupa
08-13-2004, 02:26 AM
Marines! Semper Fi!!

Nbadan
08-13-2004, 06:33 AM
Then again, maybe not..


--snip--
Fri Aug 13, 2004 03:29 AM ET
BAGHDAD (Reuters) - Shi'ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr is unhurt and is negotiating with the government to leave the Imam Ali shrine in the city of Najaf, Iraq's Interior Minister Falah al-Naqib said on Friday.
Several spokesmen to Sadr said he was wounded in a U.S. raid on Friday.

"Sayyed Moqtada will not be touched if he leaves the shrine peacefully. A truce has been in force since last night," Naqib told Reuters.

Reuters 2004. All Rights Reserved

Reuters (http://www.reuters.com/newsArticle.jhtml?type=topNews&storyID=5967031)