Sunday, August 15, 2004

US poised for killer blow against Muqtada -

US poised for killer blow against Muqtada -: "Monday 16th August 2004 :
US poised for killer blow against Muqtada
By Jim Lobe
WASHINGTON - Once again, US armed forces appear on the verge of winning a decisive military victory in Iraq - this time in the holy city of Najaf. And once again, they appear closer to losing the larger wars for a stable and friendly Iraq and for an Islamic world that will cease producing anti-US terrorism.
That is the rapidly growing concern of Middle East and Islamic specialists as US Marines, after a week of fighting, captured virtually all of central Najaf on Thursday, including the home of Mehdi Army leader Muqtada al-Sadr, and launched a final siege of the Imam Ali Shrine, which is considered the world's holiest by some 120 million Shi'ite Muslims.
According to a report on Friday by the Arabic-language al-Arabiya TV channel, Muqtada was injured in the fighting. The report said that he suffered three injuries, but did not say how and when he was wounded. Later, one of Muqtada's spokesmen confirmed that the cleric had been injured, but said 'his injuries are not life threatening'. Earlier this week, Muqtada vowed that he would resist US forces 'with the last drop of my blood'.
The military commanders and Iraq's interim premier, Iyad Allawi, are debating whether to wait out Muqtada and his armed followers, who are believed to be inside the shrine, or to invade its precincts - preferably with Iraqi troops. The end result of such actions is not likely to work in Washington's favor, according to most experts. But reports from the troubled city on Friday indicated that there has been a lull in fighting pending possible negotiations. US commanders said the new ceasefire orders were designed to allow political negotiations to proceed between Muqtada and the interim Iraqi g"

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