Saturday, May 05, 2007

Report: Shiite Mahdi, Badr militia members in armed clashes in Najaf on Friday

New police graduates march during their graduation ceremony in Najaf on Thursday.

BAGHDAD — It started as a dispute at a checkpoint in the southern city of Najaf. It led to a showdown Friday between rival Shiite militias, with mortar rounds lobbed, guns fired and rumors flying that an aide to radical cleric Muqtada Sadr had been assassinated...

The unrest in Najaf began when Sheik Salah Ubaidi, one of Sadr's top aides, was stopped at a police checkpoint. Most police in the city are linked to the Badr Organization, the armed wing of the Supreme Council of the Islamic Revolution in Iraq, or SCIRI, the country's biggest Shiite political party...

In the roughly 90 minutes Ubaidi was detained at the checkpoint, unable to contact family and associates, rumors spread that he had been assassinated.

Later, at least one mortar round crashed near a SCIRI office in Najaf, and gunfire broke out. Shops quickly closed and the streets emptied as residents became fearful of battles between the groups, which have clashed previously.

Read the rest at the LA Times

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