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Iraq

Sun Aug 8 2004 Fighting in Najaf and Nasiriya
8/8/2004: On Jul. 23, Iraqi Shia leader Muqtada al-Sadr gave his first public sermon in nearly two months While his rhetoric was critical of the US appointed Iraqi government, it was noticeably less militant than his earlier speeches. The lull in fighting and less militant tone of Sadr's public statements lead US newspapers to speak of Sadr's decreased influence outside of Sadr city. An upsurge in fighting in early August has shown this to be untrue.

On July 29th, Italian troops stormed Sadr's offices in Nasiriya setting off several days of fighting. Several days later, Sadr's militia kidnapped 18 Iraqi police officers in an effort to force authorities to release detained militants. While Sadr soon released the police officers, fighting between his Mahdi Army and US troops soon began throughout southern Iraq. On August 5th, the Mahdi militia downed a US helicopter in Najaf as Sadr also declared war on British troops in Basra. Several days of fighting in Najaf resulted in many deaths, with US claims to have killed over 300 Iraqis. The brutality of the US attacks on Najaf even lead the normally pro-US Iraqi Vice President Ibrahim al-Jafari to declare the US attacks "uncivilized" and unjustified. But the Iraqi government's talk of a truce was quickly undermined by the attempted seizure of al-Sadr by Iraqi security forces. Backed by US helicopters and fixed wing aircrafts, Allawi visited Najaf on August 8th to demand the surrender of the Shiite militants. "Iyad Allawi was acting like Saddam the dictator when he went to Najaf today" a Shia cleric told the AFP. "Allawi has shown his true colours. He is determined to eliminate Sayed Moqtada and the movement he represents"

Riverbend and Juan Cole On The Renewed Najaf Clashes

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