News and opinions on situation in Iraq
06/04/04 Sadr Ends Sit-In ‘To Turn Off Bloodshed’

Sadr said he will observe a “peaceful sit-in” in An-Najaf

BAGHDAD, April 6 ( & News Agencies) – Shiite leader Moqtada Sadr said Tuesday, April 6, he ended his sit-in at a mosque in Kufa and traveled to the holy city of An-Najaf to prevent “more bloodshed”, while Shiites’ spiritual leader Ayatollah Ali Sistani called for calm and voiced his solidarity with the young firebrand leader. “I have taken it upon myself to prevent more bloodshed,” he said in a statement, expressing concern the “sacred site of the mosque not be violated … by people who do not back down from anything” out of respect for holy places, Agence France-Presse (AFP) said.

Sadr said his decision to “observe a peaceful sit-in” at the mosque was taken to protest against “the aggressions committed by the infidel occupier against civilians”.

The U.S. occupation authorities said Tuesday they had an arrest warrant  for Sadr, alleging that he was involved in the murder of Shiite leader Abdel Majid Al-Khoei last April. After U.S. overseer in Iraq Paul Bremer declared Sadr an outlaw  on Monday, April 5, thousands of his devotees gathered in the mosque's courtyard ready to defend him to the death. In an ominous development that threatens to inflame the situation, Sadr told his supporters Sunday to “terrorize the enemy”  as demonstrations were now pointless.

A total of 87 Iraqis have been killed and some 400 wounded in the clashes across the country between occupation forces and Shiites, which erupted on Sunday, April 3. Only on Tuesday, up to 15 Iraqis were killed in fighting with Italian forces in Nasiriyah, the Italian news agency Ansa reported, quoting a spokesman for the so-called Coalition Provisional Authority in Iraq.

A Shiite official told AFP Tuesday that Sadr’s Mahdi Army was observing a two-hour ceasefire in Nasiriyah to allow an Italian occupation contingent to leave the area. The clashes have occurred in the Shiite-dominant areas of Sadr City and nearby Shoula neighborhood, as well as cities south of Baghdad, including An-Najaf, Karbala, Kufa, Amara, Nasiriyah and Basra.

At least 18 U.S. occupation troops have been also killed since Sunday, taking to 616 the number of troops killed since the start of the war to occupy Iraq one year ago. Already burdened by a fierce Sunni resistance, a full revolt among the country's 15 million-plus Shiites would spell disaster for the U.S.-led occupation troops.

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