Clashes between Badr and Sadr
BAGHDAD — Earlier this evening, Najaf police units, led by a Badr Organization commander, descended on Moqtada’s office in Najaf, located on the main street approaching the Imam Ali Shrine. In the clash, Moqtada’s office, only four meters from the shrine, was burned to the ground, according to Abu Hazzim, who worked in the Najaf office and fled for his life to Sadr City. He says 23 people have been killed, most of them Moqtada’s supporters, while media reports put the number between five and eight. Iraqi Army and police have been involved in the fighting. Many of the police and army units in the south are packed by Badr militiamen with more loyalty to the party than to the state. As I write, clashes continue.
Moqtada has put out an alert for the _jaysh al-Mahdi_ militia to be on high alert in Sadr City, Najaf, Nasriyah, Amarah and Basra. In Sadr City and Basra, _jaysh al-Mahdi_ members have asked to occupy/attack SCIRI and Badr offices, but so far they’ve been kept in check by Moqtada and Fatah al-Sheikh, one of Moqtada’s supporters in parliament.
Or at least he was. Earlier this evening, Moqtada gave the Jaafari government an hour to explain, pull back or apologize for these attacks. He also called on his supporters in parliament, Fatah and others from the NICE list, to resign because “Moqtada now considers the government illegal,” according to Abu Hazzim. Fatah has told me he has resigned. A press conference is imminent.
[UPDATE 8/25/05 0032 +0300: Fatah al-Sheikh and 20 other members have “suspended” their duties in the government and parliament until those responsible for the attacks have been punished, he said. It is unclear how this development will affect tomorrow’s vote on the constitution.]
This may blow over or it may blow up. But these are fast moving events. Coming on the eve of the constitution vote, as well as large clashes between Sunni insurgents and U.S. and Iraqi forces in western Baghdad that are also continuing, these events can only be seen as worrisome.