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Freed Sadr aide meets Iraq's PM
by BBC (reposted)
Thursday Mar 22nd, 2007 8:15 AM
An Iraqi militia leader once branded a major security threat has appeared in public alongside Iraq's prime minister after being freed from US custody.
Ahmed Shibani is a senior aide to radical Shia cleric Moqtada Sadr, whose political movement plays a key role in Iraq's power-sharing coalition.

Mr Shibani met Nouri Maliki hours after Iraqi government officials said they were talking with insurgent groups.

The US-led coalition said Mr Shibani could help moderate extremism in Iraq.

In a statement, the coalition said leaders judged that Mr Shibani "could play a potentially important role in helping to moderate extremism and foster reconciliation in Iraq."

Also on Thursday:

* United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon arrived in Baghdad on a previously unannounced visit, his first since taking office, for talks with Mr Maliki.

* Supporters of Moqtada Sadr clashed with a rival Shia militia group in the southern city of Basra, with reports of some casualties.

* The US military said it had arrested two brothers it blames for the capture and eventual killing of five US troops in the city of Karbala in January.

'No other option'

Shortly after being freed from US custody on Wednesday, Mr Shibani was seen being photographed with Prime Minister Nouri Maliki, and was also interviewed on Iraqi TV.

Iraqi news reports say negotiations for his release appear to have been carried out by the Iraqi government.

by reposted
Thursday Mar 22nd, 2007 8:21 AM
Mar 22, 2007 — BAGHDAD (Reuters) - U.S. forces have captured a senior aide to anti-American Shi'ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr over the killing of five U.S. soldiers in the Iraqi holy city of Kerbala in January, the U.S. military said on Thursday.

"Over the past several days, coalition forces in Basra and Hilla captured Qais Khazaali, his brother Laith Khazaali, and several other members of the Khazaali network, an organization directly connected to the kidnapping and murder in January of five American soldiers in Kerbala," the military said in a statement.

Qais Khazaali is a former spokesman for Sadr and now a senior aide to the cleric.

Four U.S. soldiers were abducted from an Iraqi local government compound during an apparently complex assault by guerrillas posing as Americans in Kerbala on January 20.

The military said at the time that three of the four were found dead by Iraqi police and one died on his way to hospital. In all, five soldiers were killed in what the U.S. military described as a sophisticated, well-rehearsed attack.

The attackers spoke English, wore American-looking uniforms and carried U.S.-type weapons, which got them through Iraqi checkpoints to reach the provincial compound.