Monday, September 03, 2007


Al-Sadr threatens to take matters into own hands if Karbala investigation is not launched

(Al Jazeera) - Nuri al-Maliki, the Iraqi prime minister, has ordered an investigation into the deadly clashes surrounding a Shia religious celebration in Karbala last week. Sunday's announcement came after Muqtada al-Sadr, the Shia leader, called on the government to investigate the violence, which many have blamed on his own Mahdi Army militia. Al-Sadr's followers threatened to take action if the government rejected its demand, and criticised recent raids on Mahdi Army members by US and Iraqi forces.
Clashes in Karbala near the shrine of Imam Abbas saw more than 50 people killed and hundreds injured. Al-Maliki blamed "outlawed armed criminal gangs from the remnants of the buried Saddam regime" for the violence.
He did not detail the make-up of the committee, but said that it would perform its duties "neutrally and professionally without being biased to any side". No specific time-frame for the investigation was given, but the statement said it would be concluded "as soon as possible".
Al-Sadr, who has denied that the Mahdi Army provoked the confrontation, announced a surprise six-month suspension of the militia's activities on Wednesday in an apparent bid to deflect criticism. Al-Maliki's office said the al-Sadr movement was "considered one of basic political blocs in Iraq and will remain an active and a real partner in the political process". A statement from al-Sadr called that comment "just ink on a pen".
On Sunday, al-Sadr threatened to take matters into his own hands if the government didn't open an investigation. In Najaf, Sheikh Salah al-Obeidi, a spokesman for al-Sadr, said: "After the procrastination we had seen in the past two days, we warn the Iraqi government and the executive authorities in Karbala if they don't open a fair, neutral and quick investigation, the Sadr office will be obliged to take unspecified measures.
"We are trying our best to save the blood of Muslims to stem the strife."
A statement from al-Sadr's office said that more than 200 of his followers had been detained by Iraqi security forces in the past three days in Karbala. Iraqi government has said 72 people had been detained, and that al-Sadr's followers were not being targeted. Jawad al-Hasnawi, an al-Sadrist member of Karbala's provincial council, said al-Maliki had promised to stop detaining people in connection with the incident but "despite the promises ... detentions are still going on". He said: "They have taken us back to the era of the former dictatorship."

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