UNITED24 - Make a charitable donation in support of Ukraine!


12 August 2004

Coalition, Iraqi Forces Focus on al-Sadr's Outlaw Militia

Central Command Report, August 12: Military operations in Iraq

Current military operations being conducted by Iraqi and multinational military forces in Najaf and Kufa are "designed to restrict freedom of movement" of the Mehdi militia forces loyal to Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, according to a U.S. general.

In an August 12 U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) statement, Brigadier General Erv Lessel, deputy operations director with Multinational Forces-Iraq, said the military operations are also aimed at isolating militia forces in the Imam Ali Mosque in Najaf and the Kufa Mosque in Kufa, which he specified are not targets.

Lessel said the militia's use of the mosques as operating bases could lead to damage of the sacred sites.

Iraqi and Multinational forces are "operating in strict compliance with guidance from the [Iraqi] prime minister [Ayad Allawi] to safeguard and prevent possible harm to these holy shrines as well as protect the citizens and future of Iraq," he said.

CENTCOM also noted that Mehdi militia was firing on Iraqi citizens from a courtyard inside the walls of the Imam Ali Mosque. According to the CENTCOM statement, 25 mortar rounds were fired at Najaf's main Iraqi police station during the morning. The militia also "engaged in three major firefights with the Iraqi Police in the center of Najaf," and was repelled on each occasion, CENTCOM said.

The battle began August 5 with an assault by U.S. Marines on anti-Iraqi forces in Najaf, responding to militia military operations in the Wadi Al Salam cemetery, according to a CENTCOM statement August 10. Throughout the several days of fighting, militia tactics have been to launch attacks from the cemetery and surrounding areas, and then immediately retreat into the mosques and buildings surrounding the Imam Ali Shrine, CENTCOM said.

The current offensive, according to CENTCOM, resulted from Mehdi militia "operating from the sacred cemetery and surrounding mosques and buildings, violating international laws of war and the cease-fire agreement between Muqtada al-Sadr and coalition forces."

"While the international laws of armed conflict normally identify such sites as protected places, that status is forfeited if it is used for military purposes," CENTCOM said.

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

Join the GlobalSecurity.org mailing list