Monday, March 31, 2008
* Basra residents bury their dead
* Basra quiet after Sadr ordered followers off streets
* Clashes in Baghdad, Green Zone hit by mortars
(Updates throughout with analyst, colour, death toll)
By Aref Mohammed
BASRA, Iraq, March 31 (Reuters) - Residents buried their dead and swept rubble from the streets after quiet returned to the southern Iraqi city of Basra on Monday, but clashes continued in Baghdad despite a truce to end a week of violence.
Shi'ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr called his fighters off the streets on Sunday, nearly a week after a crackdown on them sparked fighting that spread through the south and the capital.
Life slowly returned to normal in Basra where Sadr's masked Mehdi Army militia fighters were no longer to be seen openly brandishing weapons in the street as they had for days.
"We have control of the towns around Basra and also inside the city. There are no clashes anywhere in Basra. Now we are dismantling roadside bombs," said Major-General Mohammed Jawan Huweidi, commander of the Iraqi Army's 14th division.
Shops were beginning to reopen, some for the first time in a week. Authorities said schools would reopen on Tuesday. Residents hosed down the hulks of burnt-out cars. Others drove with coffins in their trunks carrying the unburied dead.
Many expressed anger at the government of Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki for unleashing the violence.
"Today the situation is good. The battle is over. But Maliki did not achieve what he wanted. He ruined Basra," said grocer Numan Taha, 40, reopening his shop in the Hayaniya neighbourhood, a Sadr stronghold.
In Baghdad, where a three-day curfew was mostly lifted, the truce seemed tenuous at best. Explosions struck the "Green Zone" government and diplomatic compound in what police said was a volley of six mortar bombs. Sirens wailed and a recorded voice ordered people to take cover.
U.S. military spokesman Major Mark Cheadle said there were clashes in several Baghdad neighbourhoods early on Monday.
U.S. forces called in at least three helicopter strikes in Baghdad late on Sunday after Sadr's ceasefire, including one in which they said they killed 25 fighters who attacked a convoy struck by a roadside bomb. U.S. helicopter strikes, once rare in the capital, became common over the past week.
"The attacks haven't stopped. There's still a lot of enemy out there, we're not going to quit protecting the populace," Cheadle said. But he said fighting in the capital had eased over the past two days and U.S. forces expected it to ease further.
"They were looking for an excuse to stop fighting," he said. "They don't like facing us because they get killed."
Sadr City, a sprawling slum of about 2 million people that is Sadr's main stronghold and which has witnessed some of the worst fighting in the past week, remained sealed off by U.S. and Iraqi troops, but appeared quiet, said resident Mohammed Hashin.
"The last days were a tragedy: no water no food, garbage heaped in the narrow streets."
Reuters correspondents said southern towns that have seen fighting such as Kut, Hilla and Nassiriya appeared quieter.
A Reuters photographer in Mahumidya, south of Baghdad, said dead bodies were being kept on blocks of ice in a Shi'ite mosque because it was not yet safe enough to bury them.
The week saw government troops have little military success driving fighters from the streets in their biggest test yet.
Sadr announced the surprise ceasefire after talks behind the scenes with parties in Maliki's government. As part of the deal, Sadr's aides say, authorities are to end roundups of his followers and implement an amnesty to free prisoners.
The government still says it wants militants to hand over heavy and medium weapons. But Sadr's aides say his followers have no heavy weapons and will keep their light arms to defend themselves against the U.S. "occupation".
"I dont think any party can claim victory," said Mustafa Alani, analyst at the Dubai-based Gulf Research Centre. "Sadr asked his followers to move away from the streets but he is not asking them to disarm. It came out of an agreement, not defeat."
Maliki launched the crackdown last Tuesday in Basra, which controls Iraq's only sea port and 80 percent of its oil revenues. The government has long worried about rival militia fighting for control of Basra and portrayed the crackdown as an attempt to assert state authority in a lawless city.
But the militia are also tied to political parties, and Sadr's followers saw the crackdown as an attempt to subdue them ahead of provincial elections due by October.
Alani said there could be more clashes ahead: "It will be a short honeymoon especially with election time coming up.... Things will escalate before they decline."
The Interior Ministry said 210 people had been killed and 600 wounded in Basra during the week. In Sadr City, 109 dead bodies and 634 wounded were brought to just two hospitals, said Ali Bustan, head of the health directorate for eastern Baghdad.
Scores more were killed in other parts of the capital and in other southern towns.
Jabbar Sabhan, a civil servant in Basra, said he was glad the violence had died down but was doubtful the calm would hold.
"I didn't go to work today. It is true that there are no clashes, gunmen or explosions, but the situation is still dangerous. I don't trust the words of politicians." (Additional reporting by Peter Graff, Aseel Kami, Aws Qusay and Randy Fabi in Baghdad; Writing by Peter Graff; Editing by Samia Nakhoul)
Sunday, March 30, 2008
BAGHDAD, IRAQ - APRIL 29: Tablets and other stolen antiquities that were returned in recent days to the Iraqi National Museum are displayed at the museum April 29, 2003 in Baghdad
BAGHDAD, IRAQ - APRIL 29: Tablets and other stolen antiquities that were returned in recent days to the Iraqi National Museum are displayed at the museum April 29, 2003 in Baghdad, Iraq.
Zurich-Based Seller Under Investigation for Smuggling Antiquity Out of Iraq
UNESCO advisories regarding the valuables looted from Baghdad's National Museum have done much to stem the buying and selling of...
Muqtada Al-Sadr, Supports Armed Attacks against US Forces in Iraq and States that the Al-Mahdi Army Will Be "An Interested Party" If Any Arab or Islam
Following are excerpts from an interview with Muqtada Al-Sadr, Leader of the Al-Mahdi Army in Iraq, which aired on Al-Jazeera TV on March 29, 2008.
Muqtada Al-Sadr: It's a little difficult to combine studying with the direct leadership of society. I can only move forward in one of these two directions. I have dedicated five years to society, and now I want to dedicate a few years to my studies, so I can be of more benefit to society. I am not secluding myself from society. I am fulfilling my duties to the best of my ability. As has been said in the communiqué, there is a committee that runs things, and I supervise it directly. However, at this point in time, I want to progress in my knowledge and faith.
It is the duty of the Al-Sadr movement and the Iraqi people to strive to gradually liberate Iraq. The liberation of Iraq does not mean only bearing arms. There is also cultural liberation, social liberation, military liberation, and so on. The assault against Islam is not only military. It is both cultural and military, and it requires, at any given period, diversification of the resistance. But the liberation of Iraq remains a national duty, and a primary goal of the Al-Sadr movement.
It is true that Saddam was occupying Iraq with his dictatorship and his reckless policies, which were hundreds of miles removed from reason – policies that were, in fact, devoid of any reason. However, the military intervention of the occupying forces of all nationalities does not constitute liberation. The proof is that we did not get rid of Saddam or the Ba'thists. They are still around and still have a negative influence in Iraq. The second this is that the American influence on the Iraqis is even more negative than that of the former Ba'th Party. The Iraqi people still suffers as it did in the days of the Saddam – there are no services, there is a lack of security, and we still suffer from all the things we suffered from in the past. Therefore, this was occupation, not liberation. I call it occupation. I have said in recent years: Gone is the "little Satan," and in came the "Great Satan."
Interviewer: After five years of war, do you still believe that Iraq is occupied?
Muqtada Al-Sadr: Bush used to say that his picture would hang in all the Iraqi homes. No, sir. His picture is now trampled underfoot by the Iraqis.
Interviewer: But is Iraq still occupied by the American forces?
Muqtada Al-Sadr: Yes, it is, and American popularity is dropping daily – why daily? It is dropping by the minute.
Interviewer: Do you consider acts of resistance to be legitimate when directed against these forces, which you call "occupying forces"?
Muqtada Al-Sadr: No one can deny [the right] to conduct resistance. No human mind would deny it. Resistance is the legitimate right of all peoples. Resistance automatically appears wherever there is occupation. Allah willing, the U.S. will be vanquished, just like it was in Vietnam.
Interviewer: Do you support any armed resistance against these forces, which you label "occupiers"?
Muqtada Al-Sadr: This is the reasonable right...
Interviewer: Do you support it? Do you support armed resistance against the forces you call "occupiers"?
Muqtada Al-Sadr: Against the occupiers – yes, but not against others.
Interviewer: Since you claim that Iraq is now occupied, and that the occupiers are the Americans, do you support conducting acts of armed resistance, in order to liberate Iraq from the occupying American forces, as you call them?
Muqtada Al-Sadr: On condition that these acts do not harm the Iraqi people.
Interviewer: I will get to that. We will talk later about your general political position. Do you openly support these acts?
Muqtada Al-Sadr: Yes, I do.
Interviewer: What do you mean when you say "on condition that they do not harm the Iraqi people"?
Muqtada Al-Sadr: For example, that the battles should not be waged within the city. This is just one example of how to avoid harming the Iraqi people. The targets should be hit accurately, so that others will not be harmed. The people who conduct resistance know these things better than me.
Interviewer: What we abroad understood was that you disbanded the Al-Mahdi Army, because you had lost control over it.
Muqtada Al-Sadr: The Al-Mahdi Army is under control, or at least most of it. They are obedient, loyal, and faithful. They are even capable of gradually liberating Iraq, Allah willing, along with some other resistance forces.
This will be the army of the Reformer [the Mahdi], Allah willing. At the end of time, the Mahdi will appear, and if by that time, we are still around, and if we are capable mentally, physically, militarily, and in terms of faith, we will all be his soldiers, Allah willing. Hence, the Al-Mahdi Army is a matter of faith, and it cannot be disbanded.
Interviewer: What is the strategic goal of the Al-Mahdi Army?
Muqtada Al-Sadr: At present, it is to liberate Iraq, and to defend the Iraqi people in times of crisis, and at the moment Iraq is in a crisis – it is occupied – and should be liberated.
Interviewer: So you state clearly that the goal of the Al-Mahdi Army is...
Muqtada Al-Sadr: To defend Iraq. I never have and never will deny this.
Interviewer: So you continue with this?
Muqtada Al-Sadr: Of course, and if I’m not around – if I am killed, if I die, retire, or whatever – the goal of the Al-Mahdi Army will remain the liberation of Iraq.
Interviewer: Let me say that this comment might sound peculiar to many...
Muqtada Al-Sadr: It will sound peculiar only to the Americans.
Interviewer: The general belief abroad is that you are retiring...
Muqtada Al-Sadr: These are merely tactics... Allah willing, these tactics will not weaken our resolve to liberate Iraq.
There are plans to divide Iraq – to divide what has already been divided, if I may say so. The Al-Sadr movement must oppose this, and strive to maintain the unity of the Iraqi land and people under any circumstances. Another important goal is to make society religious, rather than secular. People keep talking about an “Islamic government” and so on. What is more important is to make society, not just the government, Islamic. An Islamic government without an Islamic society cannot...
Interviewer: You mentioned your opposition to the division of Iraq. What exactly did you mean? Did you mean the partitioning of Iraq into independent countries, or do you consider federalism and decentralization to be part of this division? People talk about a district in the south, another in the north, the center, the west... What do you mean?
Muqtada Al-Sadr: If federalism does not entail the division of Iraq, it is fine. The important thing is that the occupation is an obstacle to federalism. There can be no federalism as long as there is occupation. As long as there is occupation in Iraq, federalism will constitute the partitioning of the country, even if it is centralized.
Interviewer: You say this unequivocally?
Muqtada Al-Sadr: Yes. If there was no occupation, my answer would be different. Then there would be room for discussion.
Interviewer: Do you fear there will be more sectarian violence in Iraq in the near future? I am not talking about the resistance, but about internal violence.
Muqtada Al-Sadr: Sectarian violence? It’s possible, because the Americans are in Iraq, and they are constantly touching on this sensitive spot – Shiites against Sunnis, Kurds against Arabs... They are always... I have seen this on TV or somewhere... The Americans are responsible even for the car bombs.
The Al-Sadr movement is Islamic even more than it is Iraqi. An attack against any Islamic country or people will mean that the Al-Sadr movement will become an interested party.
Interviewer: In what way?
Muqtada Al-Sadr: It will defend Islam however necessary. It will do whatever it can at the time. If any Islamic or Arab country is attacked, the Al-Sadr movement will be an interested party.
Obviously, I am close to the Shiites ideologically, but politically, I am close to the Sunnis and the decisions they make. Many of the decisions of the Al-Sadr movement correspond to those of the Sunnis.
Interviewer: How do you view Iran’s role in Iraq, and what are your relations with the Iranian leadership?
Muqtada Al-Sadr: First of all, I don’t do anything in secret. It is all out in the open. I try to maintain good relations with everybody. With regard to the Iranians and the Iranian Republic... In a previous meeting with Khamenei, during a pilgrimage, I told him that we share the same ideology, but that politically and militarily, I would not be an extension of Iran, and that there were negative things that Iran was doing in Iraq. I mentioned to him a few things that Iran needs to rectify with regard to Iraq. Iran committed mistakes that it should not have made.
Iraq's Sadr orders followers off streets 30 Mar 2008 13:54:29 GMT
* Sadr orders his followers off the streets
* Iraqi government welcomes Sadr's announcement
* Sadr aide says fighters will not hand over weapons
(Updates with Sadr aide)
By Khaled Farhan
NAJAF, Iraq March 30 (Reuters) - Iraqi Shi'ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr called on his followers on Sunday to stop battling government forces after a week of fighting in Iraq's south and the capital threatened to spiral out of control.
The government immediately welcomed Sadr's statement, saying it would help the authorities impose security in Iraq.
A government crackdown on Sadr's followers in the southern oil port of Basra has sparked an explosion of violence that risks undoing recent improvements in Iraq's fragile security and jeopardising U.S. plans to withdraw troops.
"Because of the religious responsibility, and to stop Iraqi blood being shed ... we call for an end to armed appearances in Basra and all other provinces," Sadr said in a statement given to journalists by his aides in the holy Shi'ite city of Najaf.
"Anyone carrying a weapon and targeting government institutions will not be one of us," the statement said.
Sadr also called on the government to stop "random illegal arrests" of his followers and to implement an amnesty law passed by Iraq's parliament in February to free prisoners.
Sadr's Mehdi Army militia have complained that Iraqi and U.S. forces have exploited a truce called by the cleric last August to make indiscriminate arrests. The U.S. military says it only targets those who have disobeyed Sadr's ceasefire.
Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki has ordered Shi'ite fighters in Basra to lay down their arms and has extended a 72-hour deadline until April 8 for them to turn over heavy and medium weapons in return for cash.
But a top aide to Sadr, Hazem al-Araji, said Mehdi Army fighters would not hand over their guns. He also said that Sadr's followers had received a guarantee from the government that it would end "random arrests" of Sadr followers.
"As the government of Iraq we welcome this statement," Maliki's spokesman, Ali al-Dabbagh, said in response to Sadr's comments. "We believe this will support the government of Iraq's efforts to impose security."
Maliki launched the military operation last Tuesday, vowing to reassert his government's control over Iraq's second city, which is dominated by various militias. So far only strongholds of Sadr's followers have been targeted.
The operation has sparked a furious backlash from Sadr's Mehdi Army, who believe Maliki and the Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council, his most powerful Shi'ite ally, are trying to crush them ahead of provincial elections due in October.
(Additional reporting by Waleed Ibrahim in Baghdad; Writing by Ross Colvin and Peter Graff; Editing by Samia Nakhoul)
Iraq says military operation to continue 30 Mar 2008 14:11:49 GMT Source: Reuters
BAGHDAD, March 30 (Reuters) - Iraqi troops will continue their six-day-old military operation in Basra despite a call by Shi'ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr for his followers to stop fighting, government spokesman Ali al-Dabbagh said on Sunday.
"The operation in Basra will continue and will not stop until it achieves its goals. It is not targeting the Sadrists but criminals," Dabbagh told Reuters.
(Reporting by Wisam Mohammed; writing by Peter Graff; Editing by Ibon Villelabeitia)
-------------Al-Sadr's nine-point statement was issued by his headquarters in the holy city of Najaf and broadcast through loudspeakers on Shiite mosques. It said the first point was: "taking gunmen off the streets in Basra and elsewhere."
He also demanded that the Iraqi government stop "haphazard raids" and release security detainees who haven't been charged, two issues cited by his movement as reasons for fighting the government.
Followers handed out sweets in Baghdad's main Mahdi Army militia stronghold of Sadr City.
Scattered firing could be heard in central Baghdad hours after al-Sadr's statement was released, and rockets or mortars were fired toward the U.S.-protected Green Zone.
At least seven Iraqis were killed and 21 wounded when two rounds apparently fell short, striking houses in the commercial district of Karradah, police said.
A U.S. public address system in the Green Zone warned people to "duck and cover" and to stay away from windows.
One of al-Maliki's top security officials was killed in a mortar attack against the palace that houses the military operations center, officials said.
The prime minister's Dawa party issued a statement of condolences identifying the slain official as Salim Qassim, known by his nickname Abu Laith al-Kadhimi.
The strength of the resistance to the week-old offensive has taken the U.S.-backed government by surprise, forcing it to come up with a new tactical plan targeting several Mahdi Army strongholds, a government official said.
The official, who was in Basra but spoke on condition of anonymity because he wasn't authorized to release the information, said Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki also had brought in reinforcements and appealed to local tribal leaders to help secure the area.
The prime minister, himself a Shiite, has called the fight "a decisive and final battle" and vowed to remain in Basra until government forces wrest control from militias, including the Mahdi Army that is loyal to radical cleric Muqtada al-Sadr.
But al-Maliki also acknowledged Saturday that he may have miscalculated by failing to foresee the strong backlash the offensive would provoke in Baghdad and other cities where Shiite militias wield power.
BAGHDAD — Iranian officials helped broker a cease-fire agreement Sunday between Iraq's government and radical Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, according to Iraqi lawmakers.
The deal could help defuse a wave of violence that had threatened recent security progress in Iraq. It also may signal the growing regional influence of Iran, a country the Bush administration accuses of providing support to terrorists in Iraq and elsewhere.
Al-Sadr ordered his forces off the streets of Iraq on Sunday. Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki hailed al-Sadr's action as "a step in the right direction." It was unclear whether the deal would completely end six days of clashes between U.S.-backed Iraqi forces and Shiite militias, including al-Sadr's.
Osama al-Nujaifi, a Sunni lawmaker who oversaw mediation in Baghdad, said representatives from al-Maliki's Dawa Party and another Shiite party traveled to Iran to finalize talks with al-Sadr.
Haidar al-Abadi, a Dawa legislator who is close to al-Maliki, confirmed that Iranians played a role in the negotiations. Sadiq al-Rikabi, a senior adviser to al-Maliki, said he could not confirm or deny Iranian involvement in the deal.
"The government proved once again that Iran is a central player in Iraq," said Iraqi political analyst and former intelligence officer Ibrahim Sumydai.
"Everything we heard indicates the Sadrists had control of more ground in Basra at the end of the fighting than they did at the beginning," said al-Nujaifi, the Sunni mediator. "The government realized things were not going in the right direction."
BAGHDAD, 30 March 2008 (IRIN) - Non-governmental organisations (NGOs) appealed to the Iraqi authorities on 30 March to facilitate their distribution of relief materials in Baghdad and Basra, 545km southeast of the capital. Both cities are under an indefinite curfew due to ongoing clashes between government forces and the Mahdi Army, the Shia militia led by Moqtada al-Sadr.
"We call upon the [Iraqi] government to allow local and international aid organisations to move during curfew time and get into conflict areas to do their job," Basil al-Azawi, head of the Iraqi Commission for Civil Society Enterprises (ICCSE), a coalition of over 1,000 Iraqi NGOs, told IRIN.
"It is a really dangerous situation and must be focused on. The clashes and curfew have highly affected the delivery of humanitarian assistance in both Baghdad and Basra. People are still in dire need of food and water and some hospitals need medicines and medical items," he said.
Al-Azawi added that Iraqi security forces prevented him on 28 March from entering Baghdad's eastern district of Sadr city, where clashes were taking place, as he was heading a team to determine the needs of residents.
Since 28 March, Baghdad has been under a round-the-clock curfew which was due to expire on 30 March but has now been extended indefinitely.
"The government must find ways to confront militants without violating civilians' human rights. These military operations have added more to Iraqis' daily suffering with shortages of drinking water, food and medicines," Al-Azawi said.
Basra conditions deteriorating
In Basra, where clashes beginning on 25 March triggered violence in the capital, local officials said an escalation of fighting and an ongoing curfew had further deteriorated the living conditions of the some 1.7 million residents there.
"Supermarkets have run out of all tinned food, dried food and bottled water while hospitals, especially those in areas where the clashes are intense - like al-Menaa, al-Shafaa and al-Ashaar - are in dire need of blood, medicines and other medical materials," Mahdi al-Tamimi, head of the city's human rights office, told IRIN.
Al-Tamimi said that many of Basra's residents were daily wage earners, who, without jobs to go to now, would have no means of buying anything and were unlikely to have stocks of supplies.
"We urgently call upon the government and UN organisations to provide drinking water, food and medicines in addition to the ambulances they have already provided to help those who need medical care get to the hospitals," he added.
Red Crescent action
Attempting to alleviate the suffering of Basra residents, the Iraqi Red Crescent Society has set up an operation room in the relatively peaceful neighbouring Missan Province to handle the distribution of relief materials to Basra.
"So far we have managed to distribute food parcels - each one containing 17 items, including sugar, rice, flour, tomato paste and milk - to some hospitals and we hope there will be a lull later today to distribute other things," Salih Hmoud, head of the IRCS provincial office in Basra, said.
Saturday, March 29, 2008
An Iraqi army armoured vehicle burns outside the al-Iraqiya television network in Basra, 550 km (340 miles) south of Baghdad, March 30, 2008. The al-Iraqiya television building, which was guarded by government soldiers, has been overrun by the fighters from the Mehdi army after clashes in Basra on Sunday, a fighter from the Mehdi army said.
REUTERS/Atef Hassan (IRAQ)
An Iraqi woman reacts as she watches Mahdi Army fighters storm a state al-Iraqiya TV facility in Basra, Iraq, Sunday, March 30, 2008. Mahdi Army fighters stormed a state TV facility in the southern city of Basra on Sunday, forcing Iraqi military guards surrounding the building to flee and setting armored vehicles on fire.
(AP Photo/Nabil al-Jurani)
A woman cries after an airstrike in Basra, Iraq, Saturday, March 29, 2008. A U.S. warplane strafed a house in a southern Iraqi city and killed eight civilians, including two women and one child, Iraqi police said Saturday. The U.S. military had no immediate comment on the report.
(AP Photo/Nabil al-Jurani)
Relatives load the coffins of Mohammed Rijab, a primary school headmaster, and his three children, 22 and 10 year old sons and a 20 year old daughter, who were killed after witnesses said gunmen riding Iraqi Army Humvees broke into their home in Basra, Iraq, Saturday, March 29, 2008.
(AP Photo/Nabil al-Jurani)
Men rest after digging graves for Mehdi fighters who were killed in clashes in Baghdad, in a cemetery in Najaf, 160 km (100 miles) south of Baghdad March 29, 2008. The death toll mounted on Saturday in fighting in Baghdad where U.S. forces have been drawn deeper into an Iraqi government crackdown on militants loyal to Shi'ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr.
(Ali Abu Shish/Reuters)
The first group of soldiers in the new Iraqi army march at their graduation ceremony at Kir Kush, Iraq, in this Oct. 4, 2003 file photo. The 700 recruits who graduated make up the first of 26 battalions planned over the next year. The recruits, who completed two months of training, will be paid at least $60 per month.
(AP Photo/Greg Baker, File)
Members of the Iraqi security forces hand over their weapons to a member of Moqtada al-Sadr's office in Baghdad's Sadr City March 29, 2008. In Baghdad's Sadr City, Sadr's main stronghold, a group of Iraqi police and soldiers surrendered themselves and their weapons to the local Sadr office, a Reuters photographer said. The spokesman for Iraqi security forces in Baghdad, Major-General Qassim Moussawi, sought to play down the desertions, saying he had received reports of only 15 men surrendering. He said those who did so would be court-martialled.
REUTERS/Kareem Raheem (IRAQ)
By KIM GAMEL, Associated Press Writer
1 hour, 23 minutes ago
BAGHDAD - A U.S. warplane strafed snipers in the southern city of Basra, killing at least 16 suspected militants after Iraqi troops came under heavy fire, the American military said.
Iraqi police earlier claimed eight civilians, including two women and a child, had been killed in a predawn airstrike in the Hananiyah neighborhood, a known Shiite militia stronghold.
But Maj. Brad Leighton, a U.S. military spokesman, said U.S. and Iraqi special operations forces had identified snipers on several roofs before the strike was ordered.
An AC-130 gunship then opened fire on enemy positions on three roofs.
"Initial reports indicate 16 criminal fighters were killed," he said in an e-mail response to a query by The Associated Press.
The American support occurred as Iraqi troops struggled against strong resistance from militia fighters in Basra, where Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has vowed to keep up the fight despite mounting anger among followers of radical Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr.
The government crackdown has prompted retaliation elsewhere in Shiite areas in Baghdad and other cities in the oil-rich south.
American jets were first called to attack militia positions in Basra on Friday, four days after al-Maliki launched the operation to clear the city of militia violence.
The airstrike followed fierce clashes between the Iraqi security forces and Shiite militiamen, Leighton said in the first confirmation of the airstrikes by the U.S. military.
Iraqi ground forces also killed four suspected militants after coming under unrelenting fire by small arms and rocket-propelled grenades during a raid in a known criminal stronghold in western Basra, Leighton said.
Two women and five children were found unharmed in the targeted building, according to the statement. It added that two more extremists were killed after the Iraqi troops came under attack again from surrounding buildings.
During the gunbattle, Iraqi commandos "and a supporting U.S. special forces team identified additional armed criminal elements on several rooftops in the area," and called in the airstrike, Leighton said.
U.S. jets also dropped two precision-guided bombs later Saturday on a suspected militia stronghold at Qarmat Ali north of the city, British military spokesman Maj. Tom Holloway said.
"My understanding was that this was a building that had people who were shooting back at Iraqi ground forces," Holloway said.
Leighton said he had no further information on that airstrike.
(Updates with background)
NAJAF, Iraq, March 29 (Reuters) - Shi'ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr has told his followers not to lay down their arms, rejecting a demand by the Iraqi government which launched a crackdown against them this week, a top aide said on Saturday.
"Moqtada al-Sadr asks his followers not to deliver weapons to the government. Weapons should be turned over only to a government which can expel the occupiers," aide Hassan Zargani told Reuters by telephone.
A member of the Sadrist political committee in the holy Shi'ite city of Najaf, Haidar al-Jabari, confirmed the remarks.
(Reporting by Khaled Farhan; writing by Peter Graff; editing by Jon Boyle)
An AFP photographer said US-led coalition warplanes bombed the Al-Baath neighbourhood of northwest Basra early on Saturday, killing at least eight people. Several more people were feared killed, he added. And entire building full of Jihadis collapsed with all aboard. No one is digging for the survivors.
There were two more strikes later in the day, British Major Tom Holloway
A British defense official in London who also declined to be identified in line with department policy, however, said US fighter jets dropped the bombs while British planes provided air support.
In Baghdad, a US helicopter also fired a Hellfire missile during fighting in the Baghdad's militia stronghold of Sadr City early Friday, killing four gunmen, military spokesman Lt. Col. Steve Stover said.
Ground forces called for the airstrike after coming under small-arms fire while clearing a main supply route at 4:10 a.m., he added.
Iraqi police and hospital officials in Sadr City said five civilians were killed and four others wounded in the attack.
The strikes underscore the risks that the US and its allies in Iraq could be drawn into an internal Shiite conflict that has threatened to unravel al-Sadr's cease-fire and spark a new cycle of violence after months of relative calm.
Rockets or mortars also were lobbed at a US facility in the southern city of Hillah, although no casualties were reported, the military said. The highlite is the goof who fired an RPG at an M1A1.
It sure sounds like the shiites are doing just dandy.
By Damien McElroy, Foreign Affairs Correspondent
Last Updated: 1:13am GMT 29/03/2008
The Iraqi government's lack of success in Basra was highlighted when the Prime Minister, Nouri al-Maliki, extended a deadline by 10 days for Shi'ite militia loyal to cleric Moqtada al-Sadr to give up their weapons, and offered them cash to do so.
There was no clear indication from Basra's streets that the involvement of coalition airpower had tilted the balance. Militia fighters had painted slogans and photographs of Sadr on captured vehicles. Humanitarian organisations warned that food, medical and water supplies were running low in areas under government siege.
Iraq's Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki (2nd L) shakes hands with tribal members in Basra March 29, 2008. Iraqi interior Minister Jawad al-Bolani is seen at left. REUTERS/Iraqi Government Office/Handout
"We used to talk about al Qaeda. Unfortunately it seems there are some among us who are worse than al Qaeda," Maliki said in a televised meeting with tribal leaders in Basra, where he has personally overseen the crackdown since Tuesday.
After years in which Iraq was torn apart by violence between Shi'ites and Sunni Arab militants like al Qaeda, the past week's violence has exposed another bloody rift -- among Shi'ites themselves. Parties in Maliki's government are battling followers of Sadr, who in many Shi'ite areas rule the streets.
A Sadr aide said his representatives had made an overture to the reclusive Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, Iraq's highest Shi'ite authority, in a bid to end the violence.
In a rare interview taped just before this week's outbreak of violence, Sadr told al-Jazeera television: "I call on the Arab League, the Organisation of the Islamic Conference and the United Nations to recognise the legitimacy of the resistance." Speaking of the meeting with Sistani, the Sadr aide, Salah al-Ubaidi, said Sistani had called for a peaceful solution.
ANALYSIS- 29 Mar 2008 10:37:25 GMT
By Dominic Evans LONDON, March 29 (Reuters) - Iraq's crackdown on the Mehdi Army in Basra poses a dilemma for the United States, which wants Iraqi forces to take a lead on security but risks getting sucked into their violent Shi'ite feud.
Security forces have battled the Mehdi Army militia loyal to Shi'ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr in Iraq's southern oil city for days, targeting what Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki has called "outlaws".
But there is little prospect of a swift victory. The fighting has spread through southern regions, drew the U.S. forces and led to protests in Baghdad by followers of Sadr, who say Maliki is using force to weaken his political rivals.
Sadr pulled out of Maliki's Shi'ite-led government last year when the prime minister refused to set a deadline for U.S. troop withdrawals. But Sadr also ordered his Mehdi Army to observe a ceasefire which has been central to a recent fall in violence.
"The key question now is what the United States is going to do," said Joost Hiltermann, of the International Crisis Group think tank. "If it allows (the crackdown) to go forward the ceasefire will unravel and the U.S. will face the Sadr movement in its full power."
"This will be bad for both sides. Sadr will lose men and the United States will lose the gains of the surge".
The Mehdi Army twice launched uprisings against the U.S. occupation in 2004 and was blamed for sectarian death squad killings at the height of Iraq's vicious civil strife.
President George W. Bush sent reinforcements last year to help bring Iraq back from the brink of all-out civil war, but plans to withdraw 20,000 troops by July, leaving the total close to the 140,000 level it had before the increase.
He has praised the Basra operation as proof that Baghdad is increasingly able to handle security without U.S. leadership.
But U.S. forces were drawn deeper into the fighting on Friday when they launched air strikes in support of Iraqi units on the ground in Basra.
Hiltermann said although the United States was "desperate to show progress by Iraqis", the Basra operation was unlikely to yield results.
"I doubt very much the Iraqi forces in Basra can stand on their own two feet. They are not a national army."
Analysts say Maliki's decision to launch the Basra crackdown, instead of carrying through with a promised offensive against Sunni Islamist militants in the northern city of Mosul, lends weight to the Sadrist accusations of a political agenda.
The attacks have targeted the Mehdi Army while leaving two other powers in Basra, the Fadhila party and the militant Badr Organisation of the Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council (SIIC) -- which supports Maliki's Dawa Party -- largely untouched.
"If Maliki had been serious about ending militia rule in Basra he should also have dealt with the militias of Fadhila and the Badr brigades," said Reidar Visser, an expert on southern Iraq who edits the Web site www.historiae.org.
Iraq's Shi'ite Muslim power struggles have been heightened by political rivalry ahead of provincial elections in October.
The showdown in Basra involved competition for control of oil resources, rivalries ahead of the October elections and disagreement over whether Basra should become part of a Shi'ite federal region in southern Iraq, Visser said.
He said the United States had consistently supported Maliki in confronting other Shi'ite factions, and ran the risk of getting deeply embroiled in the latest conflict.
Fighting has broken out across Shi'ite southern Iraq. Mehdi Army fighters seized control of the city of Nassiriya and have also held territory or fought with authorities in Kut, Hilla, Amara, Kerbala, Diwaniya and other towns over the past days.
"(The United States) should carefully think through the dangers of uncritically accepting Maliki's definition of who is an unlawful militiaman and who is not," Visser said.
Vali Nasr, a Middle East expert at the Council on Foreign Relations in Washington, said the fighting pitted Sadr's Mehdi Army against the SIIC's Badr Organisation fighters -- many of whom have joined the regular Iraqi security forces.
"Maliki is not in control of Shi'ite politics in the south, and that is the real prize right now that Sadr and (SIIC leader Abdul-Aziz) Hakim are fighting for," Nasr said.
Despite the violence, Sadr has not formally abandoned the ceasefire he announced in August. Hiltermann said Sadr still wanted to avoid direct confrontation with U.S. forces, unless he felt there was no alternative.
"I don't think they will change that unless they see the U.S. openly confronting them instead of Iraqi proxies," he said.
If the ceasefire were to collapse entirely, U.S. talk of greater stability in Iraq created by the recent troop reinforcements will have proved to be hollow, Nasr said.
"It will make the outcome of the surge look completely different from the way in which it has been interpreted in the United States right now as an unmitigated success in bringing stability to Iraq, reducing the number of casualties for the Americans, and the number of deaths for Iraqis.
(Editing by Samia Nakhoul)
Friday, March 28, 2008
As a heavy barrage erupted outside his parents' house, Abu Mustafa al-Thahabi, a political and military adviser to the Mahdi Army of Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, rushed through the purple gate and took shelter behind the thick walls. He had just spoken with a fighter by cellphone. "I told him not to use that weapon. It's not effective," he said, referring to a rocket-propelled grenade. "I told him to use the IED, the Iranian one," he added, using the shorthand for an improvised explosive device. "This is more effective."
After nearly a year of relative calm, U.S. troops and Shiite militiamen engaged in pitched battles this week, underscoring how quickly order can give way to chaos in Iraq. On this block in Sadr City, the cleric's sprawling stronghold, men and boys came out from nearly every house to fight, using powerful IEDs and rockets.
From Thursday afternoon to Friday morning, this correspondent spent 19 hours on the block, including hours trapped by intense crossfire inside the house of Thahabi's parents.
During this time, the fighters engaged U.S. forces for seven hours. They lost a comrade. They launched rockets into the Green Zone. At approximately the same time, rockets killed a U.S. government employee, the second American killed there this week.
In between battles, fighters spoke about politics and war. There was no sign of dread, or grief, or fear. Death was a matter of honor, a shortcut to some divine place.
As the two sides exchanged fire, Thahabi's mother, Um Falah, clutched a Koran and began to recite a prayer to Imam Ali, Shiite Islam's most revered saint. Her eldest son, Abu Hassan, a Mahdi Army commander, was fighting this day.
"May Ali be with you," said Um Falah, who wore a black abaya and round eyeglasses. "I pray that all the bullets will not affect you."
Shiite Against Shiite
Earlier that morning, Sadr City had been eerily quiet. Cars moved slowly. Residents carried food and water, preparing for the worst. Piles of trash littered the streets, which was charred in patches from burning tires. On one road, two olive-green Stryker vehicles were parked. Other roads were lined with roadside bombs, fighters reported.
Outside Um Falah's house, Mahdi Army fighters gathered at both ends of the block. They stood against the walls, peering down the street. Clashes were unfolding on an adjacent road. One group joined the fighting, but the others remained in place. Their job was to protect their end of the block.
Um Falah stood in the courtyard, her face lined with anxiety. But she continued her chores calmly. "I have gotten used to war, to all the battles in our lives," she said. It was not the first time her son had gone to battle U.S. troops, and in her heart, she said, she knew it would not be the last. "I have sent my son on the right path," she said.
In their living room, her husband and Abu Mustafa sat on red carpets set with colorful pillows. The room was prepared for battle, with plastic windowpanes and drawn curtains. On the wall hung tapestries depicting Imam Ali and other Shiite saints.
Thahabi, slim and gaunt-faced, said that this time the Mahdi Army was not fighting only the Americans. The militiamen were also fighting their Shiite rivals -- the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq and the Dawa party, which run Iraq's government.
Thahabi said he believes the government launched an offensive in the southern port city of Basra last Monday to weaken the Sadrist forces ahead of provincial elections scheduled for this year. He added that he thought Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, who leads the Dawa party, was taking advantage of a cease-fire imposed by Sadr last August.
Iraq's government said it began the offensive to wipe out Shiite militias and criminal gangs in Basra. In recent days, however, the fighting has spread to other parts of Iraq.
"They know the Sadrists will win the elections," Thahabi said of the government. "So they are using the Americans against the Mahdi Army. People have reached a point that they will sell their refrigerator to buy a rocket launcher to shoot and kill the Americans."
'If We Die, We Win'
Three solemn-faced Mahdi Army fighters entered the living room at around 2 p.m., fresh from battle. "Akeel, son of Riad, just got killed," said Abu Zainab al-Kabi. The room fell silent.
Kabi, 34, said Akeel had been planting a roadside bomb when he was shot multiple times by an American soldier. Akeel was 22 and had followed his father and uncle into the Mahdi Army when he was 17. The fighters took his body to the hospital morgue. If they could break away from the battle, they planned to carry Akeel's body on Friday to the southern holy city of Najaf, where the Mahdi Army has built a cemetery for their dead, whom they call martyrs.
"We are proud that he died," said Abu Moussa al-Sadr, 31, another militiaman. "Whenever one of us dies, it raises our morale. It intensifies our fighting."
"If we defeat them, we win," Kabi said. "And if we die, we win."
Any sorrow they felt for Akeel soon appeared to vanish. They wanted to eat lunch. Over a spare meal of bread, tomato paste and vegetables, they said they had woken before dawn to make sure all their fighters were in position. They ordered their men to check all the IEDs they had set and shared intelligence with commanders in other sections of Sadr City.
Suddenly, they heard mortar rounds being launched outside with a boom like the sound of a wrecking ball.
"This is to the Green Zone," said Kabi. "These are gifts to Maliki's government."
He and Abu Moussa al-Sadr both work for Iraq's Ministry of Interior, which runs the police and is widely viewed as infiltrated by the Mahdi Army. They said that many police officers had defected from the government and were now fighting with the Mahdi Army.
The fighters also said they received neither support nor training from Iran, as U.S. military commanders allege. Their Iranian weapons, they said, were bought from smugglers. They said they had been fighting only American soldiers and had not yet engaged with any Iraqi forces inside Sadr City.
They insisted that they were still obeying Sadr's cease-fire and would stop fighting if he gave the order.
"We are allowed to defend ourselves," said Abu Nargis, another fighter.
Around 3 p.m., it was time to leave the house. "We're going to the hospital to see Akeel's body," Abu Moussa al-Sadr said. "Then we are going back to fight."
A Larger Strategy
On the street, shortly after 4 p.m., another group of fighters were battling American troops. Militiamen jumped into the street, then quickly vanished.
The quick movements were a tactic. Thahabi, standing outside his parents' house, explained that one group of fighters would direct a barrage of bullets at the Stryker to distract the soldiers while another group tried to slip a powerful roadside bomb under the vehicle and then detonate it.
A father of four who studied psychology in college, Thahabi wore olive pants and a blue sweater, looking more like a professor than a militia adviser. He spoke in a slow, measured voice and clutched three cellphones, each using a different network. When the Americans drive by, they usually jam the signals of the main cellphone provider, to neutralize use of the phones as bomb detonators.
The fighters' larger strategy, Thahabi said, was to draw pressure away from the Mahdi Army in Basra. He said that many Iraqi soldiers fighting in Basra had families in Sadr City. "They will be worried for their families. They will fear what will happen to them. It's about reducing their morale."
Moments later, Thahabi received a phone call. "The whole block has been surrounded by the Americans," he said, stepping back inside the house.
Firing on the Green Zone
At 5:25 p.m., the Mahdi Army fired at least 10 rockets from near the house, each with a loud swish. Within 20 minutes, four more were launched.
At approximately the same time, U.S. officials said, 12 rockets landed inside the Green Zone, killing the U.S. government employee.
The rocket launches were followed by heavy gunfire directed at the Stryker.
"We have to keep the Americans nervous, on their edge," Thahabi said. "We can't make it easy for them."
Soon, fighters informed him that there was an American sniper on a nearby roof. After a silent pause, fighters sprayed a burst of gunfire at the roof of a house; bullets tore into the wall. Silence again. A few minutes later, more gunfire headed in the direction of the fighters.
The Americans were still around.
"They are facing heavy resistance," said Abu Nargis, who was staying at the house. He carried his baby daughter. "They will raid the area tonight."
But by 7 p.m., the Stryker had left.
Dead and Injured
At 9:05 p.m., Abu Nargis received a phone call. He said he had been told that a police commander with 500 policemen would stop working with the government and join the Mahdi Army.
At 9:09 p.m., screams tore through the street. A woman in a black abaya was walking toward the hospital, wailing: "My mother! My mother!" Her house had been hit, but it was not clear by whom. Seconds later, ambulances and police vehicles drove past the house as an unmanned U.S. drone flew by. The ambulances and police vehicles drove back, carrying dead and injured.
There was more gunfire. At 10:35 p.m., Abu Nargis received another phone call.
"The Americans are gone. Even the snipers," he said.
He headed to his bedroom. "I have to go and check on my daughter," he said. "She's afraid of the gunfire."
The next morning, Kabi was standing on a nearby street with a group of fighters, including two boys who looked no older than 13. They were getting instructions from an older fighter, who clutched an AK-47 assault rifle. They looked weary, as if they had stayed up all night.
At the edge of Sadr City, four Strykers rolled by. A white car waited patiently for the convoy to pass, then drove out. A wooden coffin was strapped to the top.
Allamah Tabatabai [r]:Story 1‘
Allāma’s family life was extremely warm and pleasant. When his wife passed away he shed so many tears and was so saddened and moved that one day we asked him, “we should be learning patience and endurance from you - why are you affected such?”He replied:Death is inevitable. Everyone must die. I am not crying for the death of my wife. My tears are for the kindness, housekeeping abilities, and the love my wife had. I have had a life full of ups and downs. In the holy city of Najaf when we were faced with many difficulties, I was not even aware of the needs and the administration of our life [because she took care of them so well]. Managing our life was in the hands of my wife, and throughout our life not once did my wife do something that I said I wish she hadn’t done that, even just to myself. Nor did she ever not do something that I said I wish she had carried that out!Throughout our life together never once did she say to me why did you carry out that particular act, or why didn’t you do something! For example, you know that I work at home and am continually occupied with writing and studying. As a result I get tired and occasionally I need to rest and to renew my energy. My wife was aware of this. She would always have the kettle on and tea ready. Although she was busy with housework, she would pour me one cup of tea every hour. She would place it in my study and would return to her work until the following hour…how can I ever forget such love and kindness?!
Ayatullah Ibrāhīm Amīnī (author of self building)
His [‘Allāma’s] behavior with my mother was incredibly respectful and friendly. Through his actions it seemed as if he was always eager to see my mother. We never saw them order each other to do or not do anything, nor did we see any discord between the two of them. They were loving, loyal and forgiving to each other to such an extent that we thought they never disagreed. The two of them were truly like two friends with each other.Prior to her death, my mother was ill and confined to bed for 27 days. During this period my father did not leave her bedside for a single moment. He left all his work to take care of her.At the same time my mother was an exceptional woman. She was patient when faced with difficulties and a meager lifestyle. She managed all our household affairs. She took care of our academic and social life and handled all our concerns. She worked with such efficiency and wisdom that my father was able to pursue his academic work with complete ease of mind.‘Allāma’s daughter
“It was this woman who allowed me to reach this position. She has been my partner and whatever books I have written, half [of the credit] belongs to her.” This one sentence from ‘Allāma Tabātabā’ī is sufficient as an indication of his enlightened view of women. At another time he said:If a woman did not have importance, God would not have placed the lineage of the 12 Imāms in the progeny of Hazrat Zahra (a). Truly if a woman is noble and good she can make the entire world a rose-garden, and if she is bad she can make the world a hell…Women and men are partners, and after looking after the raising of her children, a woman must become aware and familiar with the affairs of her society.
Imam Khomeini [r]:
Observance of the rights of a wife:Imam always offered me the better place in the room. He would not start eating until I came to the dinner table. He would also tell the children: ‘Wait until Khanom comes.’ He maintained respect for me and was not even willing that I should work in the house. He would always tell me: ‘Don’t sweep.’ If I wanted to wash the children’s clothes at the pond, he would come and say: “Get up, you shouldn’t be washing.” On the whole, I have to say that Imam did not consider sweeping, washing dishes and even washing my children’s clothes as part of my responsibilities. If out of necessity I sometimes did these, he would get upset considering them as a type of unjust dealing towards me. Even when I entered the room, he would never say: ‘Close the door behind you,’ but waited till I sat down and then would himself get up and shut the door.The Imam’s Wife60 years of living together and not one request for a glass of water:Imam had extraordinary respect for his wife. For example, I am not lying if I say that in the period of 60 years of living together, he did not even reach for food (on the dinner table) before his wife, nor did he have even the smallest expectation from her. I can even say that in the period of 60 years of living together, at no time did he even ask for a glass of water, but would always get it himself. If he was in such a position that he could not, he would say: ‘Is the water not here?’ He would never say: ‘Get up and bring me water.’ He behaved this way not only with his wife but also with all of us who were his daughters. If he ever wanted water we would all enthusiastically run to get it, but he never wanted us to bring and give him a glass of water in his hand.During the difficult last days of his life, each time he would open his eyes, if he was capable of speaking, he would ask: ‘How is Khanom?’ We would reply: ‘She is good. Shall we tell her to come to you?’ He would answer: ‘No, her back is hurting. Let her rest.’
Siddiqa Mustafavi (Imam’s daughter)
Blessed am I that I have such a wife:Imam was very attached to his wife and had special respect for her, so much so that he placed his wife on one side, and his children on the other.I remember that once Imam’s wife had gone on a journey, and Imam was missing her very much. When he would frown, we would jokingly say to him: ‘When Khanom is here, Imam laughs, and when she is not here, Imam is upset and frowns.’In short, however much we teased Imam, he would not stop frowning. Finally I said: ‘Blessed is Khanom that you like her so much.’ He said: ‘Blessed am I that I have such a wife. No one else has sacrificed as much in life as she has. If you too would be like Khanom, your husband would also like you this much.’
Siddiqa Mustafavi (Imam’s daughter)
I have come to wash the dishes:One day, as it so happened, there were many guests at Imam’s house. After the meal, I collected the dishes and took them to the kitchen. Along with Zahra, the daughter of Agha Ishraqi, we prepared to wash the dishes. However we saw that Imam himself had immediately come to the kitchen.I asked Zahra: “Why has Haaj Agha come to the kitchen?” I had a right to be surprised because it wasn’t time to perform wudu. Imam rolled up his sleeves and said: “Because there are many dishes today, I have come to help you.” My body started to tremble. My Lord! What am I seeing! I said to Zahra: “I swear by you to Allah, please request Imam to leave. We will wash the dishes ourselves.” This was really unexpected for me.
Marzieh Hadide Chi (Dabagh)
http://al-islam.org/completeman/------The stories about Allamah Tabatabai [r] were from here: http://www.al-islam.org/eternalmanifestations/If anyone has any other inspirational stories about great scholars and how they viewed and treated their wives then please post.duas ws
With the demise of Imam Khomeini on June 3rd, 1989, the world lost a great revolutionary and an unparalleled leader who awakened the Muslims, revived Islam and restored it to its pristine grandeur through his honourable and dignified life.
The Imam was a shining light in the history of Islam that continues to shine years after his demise. Millions flocked to his funeral; millions more have since congregated in mourning ceremonies and processions all over the world to pray tribute to him.
Much has been written about Imam Khomeini as a political and spiritual leader of the Islamic Revolution. However, the aim of this book is to give the reader an insight into Imam Khomeini's personal life, the man behind the scenes.
He was a perfect archetype of a complete Muslim in every facet of life. Indeed, this was a man who appealed to all levels of society and all backgrounds, especially the oppressed peoples of South Africa, Iraq and Palestine.
It is hoped, God Willing, that this compilation will be a great source of inspiration and benefit for readers from all creeds and backgrounds.
Translated by Abbas & Shaheen Merali
Holy City of Qom
Observance of the rights of a wife:
Imam always offered me the better place in the room. He would not start eating until I came to the dinner table. He would also tell the children: 'Wait until Khanom comes.' He maintained respect for me and was not even willing that I should work in the house. He would always tell me: 'Don't sweep.' If I wanted to wash the children's clothes at the pond, he would come and say: “Get up, you shouldn't be washing.”
On the whole, I have to say that Imam did not consider sweeping, washing dishes and even washing my children's clothes as part of my responsibilities. If out of necessity I sometimes did these, he would get upset considering them as a type of unjust dealing towards me.
Even when I entered the room, he would never say: 'Close the door behind you,' but waited till I sat down and then would himself get up and shut the door.
The Imam's Wife
60 years of living together and not one request for a glass of water:
Imam had extraordinary respect for his wife. For example, I am not lying if I say that in the period of 60 years of living together, he did not even reach for food (on the dinner table) before his wife, nor did he have even the smallest expectation from her. I can even say that in the period of 60 years of living together, at no time did he even ask for a glass of water, but would always get it himself. If he was in such a position that he could not, he would say: 'Is the water not here?' He would never say: 'Get up and bring me water.' He behaved this way not only with his wife but also with all of us who were his daughters. If he ever wanted water we would all enthusiastically run to get it, but he never wanted us to bring and give him a glass of water in his hand.
During the difficult last days of his life, each time he would open his eyes, if he was capable of speaking, he would ask: 'How is Khanom?' We would reply: 'She is good. Shall we tell her to come to you?' He would answer: 'No, her back is hurting. Let her rest.' Siddiqa Mustafavi (Imam's daughter)
Blessed am I that I have such a wife:
Imam was very attached to his wife and had special respect for her, so much so that he placed his wife on one side, and his children on the other.
I remember that once Imam's wife had gone on a journey, and Imam was missing her very much. When he would frown, we would jokingly say to him: 'When Khanom is here, Imam laughs, and when she is not here, Imam is upset and frowns.'
In short, however much we teased Imam, he would not stop frowning. Finally I said: 'Blessed is Khanom that you like her so much.' He said: 'Blessed am I that I have such a wife. No one else has sacrificed as much in life as she has. If you too would be like Khanom, your husband would also like you this much.'
Siddiqa Mustafavi (Imam's daughter)
He would never pass on his work to anyone else:
As far as possible, Imam was particular that he should not impose his work on others, but rather carry it out himself. In Najaf, it sometimes happened that from the roof, Imam would notice that the kitchen or bathroom light was left on.
In these cases, he would not tell his wife or anybody else who was also on the roof to go and switch off the light. Rather, he would himself make his way down three flights of stairs in the darkness, switch off the light and return.
Occasionally, he would also want a pen or paper that was upstairs. In this circumstance too, he would not tell anyone, not even his loved ones the children of Martyr Marhum Haaj Sayyid Mustafa (Imam's son), to bring them for him. He would himself get up and go up the stairs to get what he needed and return.
Hujjatul Islam Sayyid Hamid Ruhani
Imam is not crying at all:
It was around Dhuhr on the day that Marhum Haaj Agha Mustafa had passed away. Imam's house was full of people who had come to offer their condolences. When everyone had left, the Adhaan of Dhuhr was heard. Imam got up and went to do wudu and said: “I am going to the mosque.” I said: “Oh, Agha is not leaving his habit of praying congregational prayers even today.” I then said to one of the servants: “Quickly go and let the caretaker of the mosque know.”
When the people realised that Imam was going to the mosque, crowds of people from all over also flocked there. When we reached the mosque with Agha, the people who were crying and wailing opened the way and the Imam entered the mosque. The people remarked to each other with surprise: “What is this? Imam is not crying at all.”
Hujjatul Islam Furqani
I was scared that I would cry for other than Allah:
On the night of the martyrdom of Marhum Haaj Agha Mustafa, a Fatiha majlis (a service of prayer and condolence) took place in the Hindi Mosque in Najaf, and Agha Sayyid Jawad Shabbar recited from the pulpit. He narrates:
In that majlis in which Imam was also present, I narrated the masaib of Hazrat Ali Akbar (as), and also mentioned it 7 times from the pulpit, connecting it to my lecture. Imam sat throughout the majlis with complete calm.
Agha Sayyid Jawad Shabbar had wanted to make the Imam cry with these narrations so that his heart would become light, but he wasn't successful despite the fact that it (the death of his son) was a major calamity. A number of people who witnessed the Imam's state thought that Imam was not crying because he was in a state of shock from the heavy calamity. Therefore, after the majlis they went to the Imam who had returned home and asked: “Agha, you didn't cry at the masaib today?” He replied: “When he was reciting the masaib he was looking at me, and I was scared that if I cry it would be for other than Allah, i.e. it would be for the tragedy of my son, and not for the pleasure of Allah.”
Hujjatul Islam Sayyid Murtaza Musawi Ardabili Abarkuhi
Why is Hassan dishevelled like this?
Imam acted exactly according to all the instructions that he gave from the start, and in actuality, was an embodiment of those very instructions. He himself was the book 'Forty Hadith' that he had written in his youth. Suppose he spoke about riya (performing any action for the purpose of other than the pleasure of Allah) and reproached it, he himself would stay away from it with intensity.
I remember one day my son entered the house wearing trousers which I had patched up at one knee. Imam asked: “Why is Hassan dishevelled like this?” I jokingly replied: “It's the life of poor people, Agha.”
Immediately, his face became drawn, and he said: “You don't want to do riya.” I said: “No, why riya?” He said: “Be careful. Not paying attention to outward physical appearances has value. However, if you want to show (people) that I am such and such, it is riya.”
Imam said this sentence to me with the same intensity with which he had, at the age of 30 years, written in his book!
Fatema Tabatabai (Imam's daughter-in-law)
I have come to wash the dishes
One day, as it so happened, there were many guests at Imam's house. After the meal, I collected the dishes and took them to the kitchen. Along with Zahra, the daughter of Agha Ishraqi, we prepared to wash the dishes. However we saw that Imam himself had immediately come to the kitchen.
I asked Zahra: “Why has Haaj Agha come to the kitchen?” I had a right to be surprised because it wasn't time to perform wudu. Imam rolled up his sleeves and said: “Because there are many dishes today, I have come to help you.” My body started to tremble. My Lord! What am I seeing! I said to Zahra: “I swear by you to Allah, please request Imam to leave. We will wash the dishes ourselves.” This was really unexpected for me.
Marzieh Hadide Chi (Dabagh)
A piece of advice to solve family issues:
One of Imam's daughters narrates: “At the start of my marriage, I went to Haaj Agha so that he could give me some advice. He said: “If your husband is upset, or if he says something to you for whatever reason, or acts badly, at that time don't say anything, even if you are in the right. Leave it until he has calmed down, and then say what you have to.” He also gave the exact same advice to my husband.
In the beginning I didn't give this advice much importance. Later upon reflection, I saw that indeed the root of many of the family disputes came back to this very issue. Therefore, from then on, every time somebody has wanted advice about family issues, I have given them this very same advice of the Imam.
Hujjatul Islam Muhammad Hassan Murtadhavi Langarudi
Worn away bricks:
The simplicity of Imam's house in Qom during his life was an indication of his contentment.
It is well known that the bricks of the courtyard stairs were worn away. A builder had advised: “Get a number of bricks made so that these worn away ones can be replaced.” Imam responded: “Turn these worn away bricks around and let them be.”
Ayatullah Bani Fadhl
2 Guards died
Office of Iraq Vice President hit in missile attack
28 Mar 2008 12:32:42 GMT 28 Mar 2008 12:32:42 GMT ## for search indexer, do not remove
(Corrects to make clear that the missile hit the office of the Iraqi vice president, not the speaker of parliament)
BAGHDAD, March 28 (Reuters) - The office of Iraqi Vice President Tareq al-Hashemi was hit in a mortar or rocket strike on Baghdad's Green Zone government and diplomatic compound on Friday, and a security guard was killed, an official in his office said.
Hashemi was not in the office and nor were any of his staff as it was the Muslim Friday holiday, the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity. (Reporting by Waleed Ibrahim; Editing by Kevin Liffey)
Thursday, March 27, 2008
by Karim Jamil 2 hours, 57 minutes ago
BASRA, Iraq (AFP) - Fighting rocked two Iraq cities on Thursday as security forces battled Shiite militiamen for a third day in clashes that left 105 people dead, while saboteurs blew up a key oil export pipeline.
Fighting which began on Tuesday in Basra when Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki ordered his troops to crack down on "lawless gangs", spread on Thursday to the central city of Kut where at least 44 people died in early morning fighting, police said.
In Basra, where clashes broke out in a stronghold of the Mahdi Army militia of Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr soon after dawn, saboteurs blew up one of Iraq's two main oil export pipelines, an official said.
In Baghdad, meanwhile, Sadr's followers staged noisy protests against the crackdown in Basra, demanding the resignation of Maliki, who is overseeing the military operations.
The police chief of Kut, Abdul Hanin al-Amara, told AFP that among those killed during a military assault that began around midnight were four policemen and 40 Shiite militiamen.
"The security forces launched an operation at around midnight (2100 GMT Wednesday) to take back areas under the control of Shiite gunmen," Amara said in Kut, 175 kilometres (110 miles) southeast of Baghdad.
"At least 40 gunmen and four policemen were killed. Around 75 people were wounded. Police have now imposed full control on these neighbourhoods."
The offensive followed days of sporadic clashes in Kut, between militiamen and Iraqi troops, during which according to witnesses gunmen ran through the streets, burning shops and public buildings.
An AFP correspondent in Basra, meanwhile, said heavy fighting erupted early Thursday in the central Jumhuriyah neighbourhood, a Mahdi Army bastion, which was rocked by rocket propelled grenade, mortar and small arms fire.
Police spokesman Colonel Karim al-Zaidi said the convoy of Basra police chief Major General Abdul Jalil Khalaf was hit by a suicide car bomber around 1:00 am on Thursday (2200 GMT Wednesday) as it passed through the streets of Basra.
The International Committee of the Red Cross put the toll from the Basra clashes at 20 dead but other, unconfirmed reports said 40 were killed.
The port city was covered in a thick black pall of smoke on Thursday from a blast which damaged an oil pipeline transporting crude from the Zubair oil field to the Al-Faw storage facility.
Samir al-Maksusi, spokesman for the Southern Oil Company, said the pipeline had been blown up with a bomb. "The blast directly affects the exports," he said.
In the central city of Hilla, where Iraqi forces have been battling Shiite militiamen, four policemen were killed in a bomb attack, police said.
Meanwhile in Sadr City, an impoverished Shiite district of around two million people in east Baghdad, crowds gathered from 10:00 am (0700 GMT) outside the Sadr office to yell slogans against the prime minister.
"Maliki you are a coward! Maliki is an American agent! Leave the government, Maliki! How can you strike Basra?" the crowd chanted.
In the Kadhimiyah neighbourhood of north Baghdad, followers of Sadr carried a coffin covered in red fabric with an attached photograph of Maliki set against the background of an American flag.
Officials said the death toll from clashes in Sadr City Tuesday and Wednesday had risen to 30.
The Sadr movement had announced on Wednesday it would hold protest rallies against Maliki in Baghdad and the southern city of Amara, while Sadr has threatened to launch a civil revolt if the attacks against the militiamen are not halted.
On Wednesday, Maliki gave militiamen battling his forces in Basra 72 hours to lay down their arms and warned that those failing to do so would face the full brunt of the law.
Basra has become the theatre of a bitter turf war between the Mahdi Army and two rival Shiite factions -- the powerful Supreme Iraqi Islamic Council (SIIC) of Abdel Aziz al-Hakim and the smaller Fadhila party.
An aide to Sadr said representatives of the Iraqi government and a Sadrist official held preliminary talks by telephone on Thursday in a bid to end the crisis in Basra.
Iraqi and US embassy officials, meanwhile said insurgents fired rockets into the heavily fortified Baghdad Green Zone causing a major blaze.
The Green Zone, which was once Saddam Hussein's presidential compound, has been repeatedly hit by rocket and mortar fire in recent days, wounding at least three Americans.
Sharla Musabih, right, the founder of City of Hope, Dubai’s first women’s shelter, said goodbye to a departing resident last July.
DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — For years, Sharla Musabih has fought a lonely battle to protect battered wives and victims of human trafficking here. She founded the Emirates’ first women’s shelter here and she became a familiar figure at police stations, relentlessly hounding officers to be tougher on abusive husbands.
Tamara Abdul Hadi for The New York Times
Ms. Musabih with a shelter resident’s child. Her aggressiveness stands out, as does her habit of calling her charges “darlin’.”
She has also earned many enemies. Emiratis do not often take kindly to rights advocates drawing attention to the dark side of their fast-growing city-state on the Persian Gulf, better known for its gleaming office towers and artificial islands.
Still, no one was quite prepared for the stories that started appearing in Dubai newspapers this month. Suddenly, unidentified female victims were coming forward to say that “Mama Sharla” herself had abused them, forced them to work as servants and sold their stories to foreign journalists for thousands of dollars, pocketing the proceeds. She even sold one woman’s baby, the articles said, hinting at criminal investigations.
To Ms. Musabih and her supporters, the accusations, which appear to be baseless, are the latest chapter in a long campaign of threats and defamation that began with angry husbands and has grown to include prominent clerics, and even the directors of a new government-financed women’s shelter, who, she says, would like to silence her.
The ferocity of the dispute is unusual for Dubai, and underscores a major challenge facing this proudly apolitical business capital. The city’s few rights advocates have always been quietly shunted aside. But as the conservative Muslim ethos of Dubai’s native Arab minority rubs against the varied perspectives of a much larger foreign population, debates about how to approach taboo subjects like domestic violence and the city’s prevalent prostitution are getting louder.
Ms. Musabih, 47, a boisterous American transplant who was born and raised on Bainbridge Island, Wash., argues that confrontation is essential in fighting the patriarchal Arab traditions that allow men to beat their wives with impunity. She and her supporters also say the Emirates have not acknowledged the severity of their problem with human trafficking, the brutal business in which foreign women are lured here with promises of jobs and then forced into prostitution or servitude. Last year the United States State Department placed the Emirates and 31 other countries on a watch list for failing to effectively combat the illegal trade.
“When a woman has three broken bones in her back, and the police don’t take it seriously, yes, I get angry,” Ms. Musabih said.
Others say Ms. Musabih’s aggressive approach — which includes appeals to foreign news media as well as tough, face-to-face lobbying — is inappropriate in the Arab world, and has needlessly fueled the backlash she now faces. That assertiveness may also have made it easier to dismiss her as an outsider. Although she has lived here for 24 years, converted to Islam, is an Emirati citizen, wears a veil and has raised six children here with her Emirati husband, Ms. Musabih is still unmistakably American, from her moralistic zeal to her habit of calling the women in her shelter “darlin’.”
“I have told her sometimes I think she is wrong, she goes too far,” said Lt. Gen. Dahi al-Khalfan, the chief of the Dubai Police, who has supported Ms. Musabih in the past but now tends to criticize her work as divisive. “There is a case between husband and wife; let the court decide! Leave it.”
Safety and a Ticket Home
Ms. Musabih dates her work as an advocate from 1991, when she started tracking domestic violence cases and offering women shelter in her home in Dubai. In 2001, she rented a two-story house in the Jumeira district and opened a shelter for abused women and their children, naming it City of Hope.
On a recent afternoon, children’s toys littered the floors in the shelter’s sunlit living room, and several women snacked in the kitchen, while others sprawled on couches watching television upstairs. Although Ms. Musabih has had some dedicated assistants over the years, it is basically a one-woman show; she deals with everything from belligerent former husbands to buying plane tickets, sometimes with her own money, for foreign women to return to their home countries.
“I’ve repatriated 400 victims in the past six months,” said Ms. Musabih, a fast-talking, energetic figure who presides over the shelter like an overworked mother.
Establishing the shelter was unusual enough in the Arab world, where going outside the family to resolve domestic conflicts has little basis in law or custom. Ms. Musabih’s personal advocacy made her work even more startling. She would counsel women to leave their husbands if they were being beaten, and help represent them in courts or foreign consulates.
She would also march into police stations and yell at officers if she felt they were not protecting women in danger. In the Arab world it is virtually unheard of for a woman to behave this way toward a man, and the officers sometimes felt they had been publicly humiliated.
Some women who have spent time in the shelter say this tough approach is necessary. The police in Dubai “won’t do anything to protect you while you’re legally married,” said one former resident of the shelter, who declined to give her name because she still fears repercussions, from her husband and from others who oppose Ms. Musabih.
After her husband beat her repeatedly, the woman said, she appealed to the police, who made her husband sign a promise that he would not do it again. He violated the pledge again and again, she said, but the police did nothing, even after he broke into another house where she was seeking refuge and raped her.
“The police told me, ‘We can’t do anything, he’s your husband,’ ” she said.
But Ms. Musabih’s approach clearly shocked and angered many, and not just the husbands whose wives found shelter.
A prominent cleric, Ahmed al-Kobeissi, recently gave interviews to Dubai newspapers in which he said Ms. Musabih’s work “goes against the traditions of Emirati people” because she “instigates wives against their husbands.” Mr. Kobeissi also voiced indignation at Ms. Musabih’s suggestion that Emirati men are among the clients of Dubai’s many prostitutes.
Ms. Musabih’s work took on a higher public profile when she joined a crusade against the practice of using children, some as young as 4, as camel jockeys, once common in the Persian Gulf. Her advocacy led to a number of television and newspaper reports about the horrific abuses practiced on young jockeys, and appears to have helped lead to a ban on the practice in the Emirates in 2005.
Ms. Musabih is full of praise for the Emirati government’s response on this issue, and says it responded quickly and effectively to her appeals to change the laws. But her highly public approach to the problem is said to have angered some influential Emiratis, who felt she had embarrassed the leadership instead of allowing the matter to be settled quietly.
In the early spring of 2007, government officials approached Ms. Musabih about plans for a new state-sanctioned women’s shelter, apparently intended to replace hers. At first she welcomed the idea, because her shelter was often crowded and she was struggling to manage financially. They praised her pioneering work and said she could help direct the new shelter as a board member.
As the project evolved, it became clear that the government’s approach was vastly different from Ms. Musabih’s. It hired a director with a background in management and a more subdued style. On the grounds of an old rehabilitation center 20 minutes from Dubai with high fences and guards, the new shelter, known as the Dubai Foundation for Women and Children, resembles an American low-security prison.
Ahmed al-Mansouri, the chairman of the foundation’s board, says there was a need for a more organized approach and a shelter that, unlike Ms. Musabih’s, was licensed by the government. He says she was not making adequate progress on the legal cases of the women in her shelter, a claim she vehemently disputes. He also describes the familial chaos of the City of Hope shelter as a “horrible way of living.”
Certainly, the new shelter is more spacious, and has better access to schooling for the women’s children.
Feeling of Betrayal
In October, buses arrived at City of Hope and they moved 35 women to the foundation shelter.
But Ms. Musabih soon began to feel that the directors of the new shelter had betrayed her and were negligent with the women in some cases, a claim the foundation denies. She says the foundation was more interested in getting foreign women back to their home countries with a minimum of embarrassment, than in investigating wrongs that had been done to them and preventing those wrongs from recurring.
If the new shelter was meant to replace Ms. Musabih and quiet her down, it became clear over the following months that it would not work. City of Hope continued to take in new women, and as Ms. Musabih kept criticizing the Dubai Foundation’s approach, her relations with its directors became steadily nastier.
When one of the women who was moved to the foundation tried to commit suicide in December, Ms. Musabih accused its staff of negligence. After a heated exchange, the foundation’s director, Afra al-Basti, sued Ms. Musabih for slander.
It was then that the scandalous articles about Ms. Musabih began appearing in Dubai newspapers.
The sources for those articles appear to have been women at the foundation shelter who, like some of their counterparts at the City of Hope, are vulnerable or unstable, and have been drawn into the dispute boiling around them. Some speak no English or Arabic, and are easily manipulated. How exactly they came to spread false stories about Ms. Musabih’s selling babies or taking thousands of dollars from foreign journalists is still not clear.
Ms. Musabih, speaking by phone from Ethiopia, where she is setting up a shelter, said she felt betrayed.
“I never thought it would go this far,” she said. “These people think I’m an enemy of the state and that I need to be controlled.”
But even some of her supporters wonder whether Ms. Musabih, for all her pioneering accomplishments, could not have avoided all the ugliness if she had been willing to do things more quietly.
“With Sharla, it is ‘No, I am right,’ and she always deals with people straight on,” said Awatif Badreddine, a supervisor at City of Hope. “But I tell her you have to deal with people differently here. The Arabs don’t like this. Sometimes you have to go around to get what you want.”