BAGHDAD — Some updates on the “clashes in Najaf”:http://www.back-to-iraq.com/archives/2005/08/clashes_between_badr_and_sadr.php and elsewhere. “Whatever80’s comments”:http://www.back-to-iraq.com/archives/2005/08/clashes_between_badr_and_sadr.php#c45193 in the previous post match information I’ve gathered this morning.
So far: The clashes last night erupted because Moqtada’s people were demonstrating at the same time and near another demonstration by residents of Najaf who were protesting the lack of aid in rebuilding their homes and city. The principle reason for the destruction of Najaf was… Moqtada al-Sadr’s insurrection last year in August. So, Najafis have no great love for the young cleric.
Words were exchanged between the two groups and the Najaf police were called in by deputy governor Abd al-Hussein Abttan, a SCIRI member. The police, most of whom are Badr and who don’t particularly like Moqtada either, were said to have involved themselves in the melee and things escalated from there. Earlier reports of 20+ dead seem to be exaggerated, thankfully. Now it’s 6-8 people, from what I’ve heard.
The AP “reports”:http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20050825/ap_on_re_mi_ea/iraq;_ylt=Ak6JTff84zO2cRoa3KmpwJOs0NUE;_ylu=X3oDMTA3b2NibDltBHNlYwM3MTY-:
As word of the Najaf attack spread, clashes broke out between the two Shiite rival groups across central and southern Iraq. The violence extended to the country’s second largest city, Basra, where several hardline Shiite groups are competing for influence.
Fighting was reported in at least six Basra neighborhoods as al-Sadr’s followers attacked SCIRI offices and the headquarters of SCIRI’s Badr Brigade militia, setting it ablaze, police said. Al-Sadr’s headquarters in Basra was attacked with rocket-propelled grenades and small arms fire, according to police.
In Amarah, eight mortar shells were fired at the SCIRI office, and a dozen pro-al-Sadr officials announced they were also suspending work. Gunmen from al-Sadr’s militia roamed the streets. Clashes were also reported in Kut, where a SCIRI-owned building was torched, and in Nasiriyah.
On Thursday, rival militant groups clashed in Diwaniya, a provincial capital in south-central Iraq, using automatic weapons and rocket-propelled grenades, police Capt. Hussein Hakim said. There was no immediate word on casualties.
The situation across the south, however, is still very tense. All of the parties and militias are on high alert in Najaf, Nasiryah, Basra and Amarah. SCIRI and Badr offices in these cities are closed. Fatah al-Sheikh and his NICE coalition in parliament — a small block of about 20 legislators allied with Moqtada — haven’t resigned but have “suspended their participation” in parliament on the day of the voting on the new constitution. This will probably have little impact on the passage of the charter, because Sadr’s people have indicated they wouldn’t have voted for it anyway because of the issue of federalism and the belief that the issue will partition the country and hand the oil-rich south over to Iran’s proxies in Baghdad. (The al-Sadr clan has a history of Iraqi nationalism, and Moqtada’s father and uncle both worked to purge the _hawza_ — the Shi’ite theological seminary — in Najaf of Iranian influence and “Arabize” it.)
Fatah, along with Wolf Brigade Commander Abu Walid and the minister of health — a Sadr supporter — is currently in the Imam Ali Shrine in Najaf attempting to “mediate” the situation. The Wolf Brigade is an infamous commando unit attached to the ministry of interior, which is helmed by Badr loyalist Bayan Jabr.
I have to cover the constitution today, so I don’t know how much I’ll be able to update this, but I imagine the politics of the street will intrude on the politics of the constitution today. Should be interesting.