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26 April 2004

Coalition Provisional Authority Report, April 26: Iraq Update

Spokesman says mosques should not be used as weapons depots

The Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) spokesman told reporters in Baghdad April 26 that mosques in Najaf should not be used for weapons storage and they should be restored as holy places of worship.

CPA spokesman Dan Senor first read from a statement issued by CPA Administrator Paul Bremer in which he described the situation that is developing in Najaf as dangerous. Bremer's statement warned that the coalition will not tolerate the basing of militia operations or the stockpiling of weapons in mosques and shrines. "The restoration of these holy places to calm places of worship must begin immediately," the ambassador said.

Senor also said Muslim "places of worship are not protected under the Geneva Conventions in the event of military action if they are used as bases for operations and ... to store weapons and other tools of violence."

Coalition forces are seeking to restore the holy places to calm, religious sites, he said, so that they are no longer "places where violence is organized."

On efforts to bring Muslim cleric Muqtada al-Sadr to justice, Senor said, "we are demanding that he subject himself to Iraqi justice." Al-Sadr can resolve the situation by submitting himself to the Iraqi justice system, he said, where he'll be detained in an Iraqi facility and tried by an Iraqi judge in an Iraqi court according to Iraqi law.

Brigadier General Mark Kimmitt, who conducted the daily briefing with Senor, reported that U.S. Marines took small arms and rocket-propelled grenade fire from a mosque in Fallujah April 26. The hostile forces withdrew from the mosque leaving behind "a significant amount of expended shell casings in the minaret," according to his account. Later in the day, hostile fire resumed from the mosque and a fire fight ensued. The mosque was damaged and eight insurgents were killed.

The U.S. Marines outside the city are still observing a suspension of military operations, Kimmitt said, but they still have the right to defend themselves. "These Marines are not out trying to gain new terrain inside the city or take new buildings," he said. But, at the same time, the military officer said, it is "very important to understand that if they are fired upon, they will respond appropriately."

Kimmitt, who is deputy director of operations for Combined Joint Task Force-7, said the idea is to put coalition and Iraqi security forces back into Fallujah, as early as April 27, "to occupy the Iraqi police stations ... to start patrolling ... the streets and ... becoming a visible presence of Iraqi control over the city."

"The end state remains restoring Iraqi control into the city of Fallujah," Kimmitt said. By April 27, he said, the coalition expects to see a handover of large amounts of heavy weapons. The restoration of Iraqi civilian control of Fallujah is the goal of current negotiations and it will be achieved through a political track, he said, or "through force of arms. But it will be done."

Senor added that a peaceful resolution to the Fallujah situation is being sought. "If a person inside Fallujah is not carrying a weapon, he will not be considered a threat," Kimmitt said, "If a person is carrying a weapon, he will be considered hostile ... and appropriate action will be taken." No one inside the city has any reason to be afraid of having the city returned to Iraqi control, he added.

Questioned about the staying power of the coalition in Iraq, Senor said the coalition is both large and diverse and "I think by their actions every coalition country that is on the ground every single day is expressing their outrage at the tactics of the terrorists ... extremists and former Saddamists." Even nations like Japan and Italy that have experienced kidnappings of their nationals have remained focused and not backed down in the faces of challenges, he said.

Kimmitt had little to report about an explosion in central Baghdad on April 26 in a building that had been reported to contain suspicious chemical munitions. He said two U.S. soldiers were killed and five were wounded, in addition to the wounding of eight civilians nearby. The explosions occurred during a coalition raid of the building, he said.

On the subject of defeating terrorism, Kimmitt said everyone must stand up to it together. "You cannot hide from terrorism and expect it to go ... away," he said. "You must be counted. Your voice must be heard [and] ... contribute to the fight against terrorism."

Following is the text of the CPA briefing transcript: http://www.defenselink.mil/transcripts/2004/tr20040426-0661.html

(Distributed by the Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site: http://usinfo.state.gov)



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