It’s rather quite here in Baghdad this morning and reports from Najaf say that it’s similar there.
Iraqi official said that tens of the militia men who were arrested in Najaf were not Iraqis and that some of them do not even speak Arabic. The Iraqi government seems determined to keep up the fight until the "Mahdi Army" surrender although some She’at parties are trying diplomatic ways. At the same time there are conflicting signals coming from Muqtada and his deputies.
Iraqi Interior minister said that The "Mahdi Army" have fired 110 rockets and mortars against civilian areas which led to the death of many civilians and that some of Sadr followers are firing mortars from inside the shrine and that they have planted land mines around the shrine. I also was told from one of my friends who work in a health center in Zayoona, a neighborhood close to Sadr city, that 3 mortar shells fell inside the neighborhood which is strictly a civilian area.
The interior minister also said that Muqtada is not wounded and that he (Muqtada) had contacted the government contrary to what one of Sadr deputies said about Muqtada being injured due to bombing by the coalition. The same deputy warned that “ there will be flood of blood if Muqtada dies”.
I don’t know who is he threatening by this statement since the “Mahdi Army” is already fighting the coalition and the government unless he means they will seek revenge by frankly attacking Iraqi civilians! Well it won’t be something new as they’ve been doing so for a long time but I guess that he means that it’ll be their main objective.
A source in the Iraqi Defense Ministry who refused to reveal his identity told Al Arabyia that Muqtada is now near the shrine and that he’s negotiating and asking to be allowed to leave Najaf and in return he would turn in some of the leaders in his army to the Iraqi government.
I wouldn’t be surprised if he does that, as I always thought that this man doesn’t know what he wants and that he’s trapped in a situation that’s far from what the people who pushed him into this have promised or made him believe would happen.
In the first reaction from clerics, the "Sunni Association of Scholars" issued a “Fatwa” that forbids fighting against the “Mahdi Army” and called to support Muqtada while the 4 most senior Shea’a clerics gave no statement except Sistani who asked for working towards a peaceful solution that guarantees violence won’t take place again.
Such ‘paradoxical’ statements from She’at and Sunni clerics are not strange if we knew that most She’at denounce Muqtada’s doings and the truth to be said, Sistani have always showed wisdom in such critical situations. On the other hand the Salafis in the Sunni Association of Scholars have always supported terrorism in Iraq and have had strong relations with Muqtada, Hasan Nasr Allh of Hizbullah and Hamas.
The Mahdi army have taken Iraqi civilians as hostages and they are trying to scare us of by causing the death of many of them whether directly or indirectly. They hope that the large casualties will push the Iraqi government and the coalition to stop the military operation to avoid more losses. I must say that this will be the worst thing we do now, as what guarantees that this will not happen again once Sadr gang feel they can get away with their crimes every time and with the simple minded people following them being the only victims again and again? Also the way these criminals will be dealt with will send a message to their ‘brothers in terrorism’ in Fallujah, Ramadi and Sammarah.
We should never stop and weaken in response to the propaganda war that try to blame the coalition for crimes committed by Sadr and his followers.