Iraq: August 25, 2004


  Grand Ayatollah Ali Husseini al Sistani, the senior Shia cleric in Iraq, returned from Britain yesterday. He had been in  London for medical treatment since Aug. 6, the day after  Muqtada al Sadr's gunmen seized the Imam Ali shrine in Najaf and increased their attacks on police in several cities. Today, Sistani called for a nationwide march on Najaf to bring peace there and drive the Sadr gunmen out of the Imam Ali shrine. Sistani has long disliked Sadr.

American troops continue to hunt down and kill Sadr followers in Najaf, and locals report that hundreds of Sadr's followers have put down their weapons and fled the city. This is what happened in May, after over a month of one-sided battles with American troops caused Sadr's militias to give up the fight and go home. This left Sadr with no choice but to agree to a ceasefire. This he broke earlier this month with renewed attacks on Iraqi police.

The same "hunt them down and kill them" attacks are being used in Fallujah and other cities. Most of the anti-government gunmen are not very disciplined and move around in ways that are easy for U.S. UAVs and aircraft to spot. Fallujah is still controlled by Sunni Arab groups and al Qaeda, but that control is threatened by the constant attacks on houses where gunmen are staying, or groups of them walking outside.


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