Monday, May 21, 2007

Report: U.S. planned to kidnap or kill Sadr in 2004 by luring him to negotiations

Moqtada al-Sadr in Najaf in 2004. Sadr and his militia had infiltrated into the holy city while Grand Ayatollah Sistani was out of the county in a move calculated to challenge Sistani's power. Sadr headquartered himself in the Immam Ali Mosque, the holiest Shiite shrine. The U.S. brought in 4,000 troops to surround Najaf, and dozens of soldiers and Iraqis died in the ensuing battles. Eventually Sistani returned, and negotiated a truce. Sadr returned to his offices in Sadr City.

The US Army tried to kill or capture Muqtada al-Sadr, the widely revered Shia cleric, after luring him to peace negotiations at a house in the holy city of Najaf, which it then attacked, according to a senior Iraqi government official.

The revelation of this extraordinary plot, which would probably have provoked an uprising by outraged Shia if it had succeeded, has left a legacy of bitter distrust in the mind of Mr Sadr for which the US and its allies in Iraq may still be paying. "I believe that particular incident made Muqtada lose any confidence or trust in the [US-led] coalition and made him really wild," the Iraqi National Security Adviser Dr Mowaffaq Rubai'e told The Independent in an interview. It is not known who gave the orders for the attempt on Mr Sadr but it is one of a series of ill-considered and politically explosive US actions in Iraq since the invasion. In January this year a US helicopter assault team tried to kidnap two senior Iranian security officials on an official visit to the Iraqi President. Earlier examples of highly provocative actions carried out by the US with little thought for the consequences include the dissolution of the Iraqi army and the Baath party.

The attempted assassination or abduction took place two-and-a-half years ago in August 2004 when Mr Sadr and his Mehdi Army militiamen were besieged by US Marines in Najaf, south of Baghdad.

Read the rest at the Independent

Related Link:
Report: Sadr reaching out to Sunnis, purging extremists, distancing from Maliki

Related Link:
Analysis: The Sadr-Sistani relationship

Related Link:
Analysis: The life and times of Moqtada al-Sadr