Iraq: August 12, 2004

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In Najaf, where Muqtada al Sadr and his armed followers tried to take over the city administration for a second time, Iraqi and American troops are launching what they call a final attack. The Sadr gunmen have been forced back to the area around the Imam Ali Shrine complex. Sadrs men are all over the Imam Ali mosque and associated buildings, and are firing from the complex. The government is thought to have given permission for Iraqi troops to go into the shrine complex to root out the last of Sadr's men. It's likely that American troops will not go in. Sadrs use of the shrine has made him very unpopular with the people of Najaf, and Shia Moslems in general. Sadr has called for his men to fight on if he himself is killed or captured. This does not indicate that Sadr sees his situation very optimistically. 

Sadr's followers in other cities have tried to take over as well, but with much less impact than in Najaf. Sadr's men made a major effort in Shia neighborhoods of Baghdad, but were stopped mostly by Iraqi police or security personnel. American troops came in to fight in neighborhoods where the Sadr gunmen had taken control. In the last 24 hours, there have been about 400 casualties in Baghdad, with about 25 dead. 

Terrorist bombings and attacks by Sunni gangs continue. The other gangs, both political and criminal, are watching the action against Sadr's men with some apprehension. If the government troops and police, with American support, succeed in crushing the Sadr militia, then the other gangs of Iraq are in great danger.

 

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