Sunday, May 27, 2007


Mahdi Army Commander Killed In Basrah, al-Sadr pledges to protect Sunnis, Christians

Politics, Security
(Asharq Al Awsat Newspaper AR.) - 26 MAY - IP sources announced that the Mahdi Army leader in Basrah has been killed by a joint Iraqi-British operation in northern Basrah. British Army spokesman, Major David Gale, told the French Press Agency, “A special Iraqi unit supported by 100 British soldiers, killed the Basrah Mahdi Army leader.” A Mahdi Army source in Najaf said, “The British forces raided the Hayaniya area in northern Basrah and surrounded the vehicle of Usama Abu Qadr, the Basrah Mahdi Army leader, and killed him. They also wounded the four people with him.” The source also confirmed that Abu Qadr is one of the Mahdi Army’s founders in Basrah. Muqtada Al Sadr had decided to dismiss him because of the clashes that took place between Mahdi Army and Fadhila Party. An IP source said that two other people were killed with Abu Qadr during the clashes with the British. Eyewitnesses said that Mahdi Army members deployed throughout Basrah’s streets after Abu Qadr’s death.
COMMENT: This is likely to exacerbate the factional violence and attacks on the coalition in Basrah. COMMENT ENDS.
On Friday in Kufa the same newspaper reports that al-Sadr Al Sadr told his supporters, “I again demand that the occupiers must leave or must schedule their withdrawal. I demand that the Iraqi government not extend the occupation’s presence for even one day because the government is not authorized, especially after the collection of many Parliament members’ signatures and the one million man demonstration that both called for the occupation’s withdrawal.”
He added, “I hear from time to time that there are clashes between the Mahdi Army and Iraqi IPs and IA members (…) according to my point of view the one behind these clashes is the occupier to have an excuse for its presence. I am telling you not to be the instigator of this fighting and I am telling you fighting between the brothers in the Mahdi Army with IPs and IA members is forbidden and I advise the dear brothers in the Mahdi Army to use peaceful means if they are attacked by those with weak spirits by having peaceful protests and demonstrations.”
On the other side, Al Sadr stated, “I have received many complaints from Sunni brothers and some Christians of what has been done to them by (Sunni extremists). Therefore, I would say I am completely ready to defend them and I will be their shield to protect them although the occupier will not accept that. Our houses and our cities are ready to host them. Shedding Sunni and Iraqi Christian blood is forbidden and we are ready to defend them. What has been committed by the Sunni extremists to force Christians to convert is unacceptable.”
He also rejected the return of Baathists when he said, “The Iraqi government is working with some forces for the return of the Baathists (…) We will not allow Baathists to return and I will prevent that.” The US general in charge of their operations in Baghdad told the Washington Post, “Al Sadr has remained calm since his return from Iran.” Deputy US Commander in Iraq, General Odierno said, “It is not clear what Al Sadr has planned.” But he believes that Al Sadr is ready to conduct negotiations with the US and its Iraqi allies.

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