Iraq: August 9, 2004

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Finding that offers of peace and cooperation to Muqtada al Sadr did not work, Sadr has now been declared an outlaw and now seek to arrest him. Sadr has long been wanted on murder charges, for arranging the killing of rival clerics.

American troops (soldiers and marines) continued to fight pro-Sadr gunmen, killing about 500 of them so far. Four American troops have been killed in the fighting with the Sadr militias in several cities. The government has demanded that the Sadr gunmen surrender and evacuate the Shia holy places in Najaf. The Sadr men in Najaf have been calling for "all Moslems" to come help them fight the unbelievers. There was no response. While Sadr's men operate as a local police force in some places, they all live off the local population, requesting, or demanding financial and material support. Sadr does not have a traditional military organization. Any gang of gunmen who publicly pledges allegiance to Sadr becomes part of Sadr's "army." Most Iraqi Shia's consider the Sadr gunmen as just another bunch of heavily armed thugs. Sadr's armed supporters do not appear to have learned much about fighting American troops since several thousand of them were killed in April and May. The same pattern is being played out this time, except that Iraqi troops and police are also involved. While U.S. troops are doing most of the fighting, the armed Iraqis are manning roadblocks and holding positions, as well as taking control of areas where the Sadr gunmen have been killed or driven away. The Iraqis, however, will have to take care of the Sadr gunmen inside Shia holy places. 

Kidnapping continues to be a serious problem in Iraq, but mainly for Iraqis. While about 75 foreigners have been kidnapped since April, over a thousand Iraqis have been taken, almost all for ransom. Most of the foreigners are held for political reasons, although some have been freed when ransom was paid, and other, held for political reasons, were "sold" to anti-government gangs by their original kidnappers. 

An Iranian diplomat, who disappeared four days ago, has apparently been kidnapped by an Iraqi militant group, "The Islamic Army". The Iranian is charged with trying to stir up trouble between Sunni and Shia Iraqis. The kidnappers have not made any demands.

 

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