Tuesday, April 06, 2004
'To arrest Sadr, you have to kill all Iraqis'
Well, this doesn't sound good at all. Got an exit strategy floating around, George? Condi? Donnie? Anybody?
"Softly, Sheikh Abed Al Jabbar Al Khusai cooed to his faithful, 'come, come.'
About 150 members of Muqtada al-Sadr's Mahdi Army militia stopped pumping their AK-47's in the air. They turned and gathered around Khusai as he repeated a reporter's question.
The Americans say they will capture or kill al-Sadr, the sheikh told them. 'What's your response?'
Theirs was more a roar than a response: 'We will die that he may live!'
Khusai, wrapped in the black cape of a religious leader, clasped his hands and smiled. 'To arrest Sadr, you will have to kill all the Iraqi people,' he said.
The Coalition Provisional Authority has labeled al-Sadr, the Shiite cleric called 'sayed' or master by his followers, an outlaw, and he is accused of fomenting the deadly riots in Iraq this week.
Al-Sadr has a daunting base of support. Local sheikhs, or spiritual leaders, that are faithful to Sadr have a powerful influence over many Shiites, Khusai said.
'They love us because we are with them,' he added. Khusai said he has stood by his men while U.S. attack helicopters targeted rocket-propelled grenade and machine-gun wielding militants.
Still considered an upstart by older Shiite leaders, Sadr is building up his forces throughout central and southern Iraq. He issues orders from his base in Najaf through fax messages, the Internet, mobile phones and leaflets in preparation for what his deputies say could be full-scale uprising.
While some Shiite leaders have called for the Mahdi Army to cease fire, al-Sadr's forces have earned some unlikely admirers. Wahabi militants, traditional enemies of Shiite Muslims here, have offered the Mahdi Army 'weapons and men to fight the occupiers,' said Khusai.
Americans, concluded Khusai, surveying his gunmen, "don't understand what loyalty to an imam means.""
posted by lazarus |