posted on Apr, 27 2004 @ 10:46 AM
After holding back their fighting forces for days in Najaf, the United States appears to be changing its stance on fighting in the area. Yesterday
U.S. forces killed about 64 militiamen and took out an anti aircraft gun in the area with a C-130 gunship. Washington also issued an ultimatum for the
radical cleric Sadar to clear his men out of mosques in the city of Najaf. The deadline has also expired in the town of Falluja for heavy weapons to
be handed in.
NAJAF, Iraq (Reuters) - U.S. forces have killed dozens of Iraqi fighters near Najaf overnight, hours after Washington issued an ultimatum to a
radical cleric to clear his militia from mosques in the holy city.
The clashes were the deadliest since Moqtada al-Sadr and his Mehdi Army militia launched a brief revolt against the U.S.-led occupation three weeks
ago. They may mark a new phase in American efforts to dislodge him from Najaf, where he has taken refuge among some of the holiest shrines of Shi'ite
The United States has been careful in dealing with the two towns of Najaf and Falluja. These two towns represent two of the three main ethnic groups
in Iraq. Najaf is the holiest city for the Shi'ite Muslims, and Falluja is a town composed mainly of Sunni Muslims. These towns are a sort of litmus
test for the United States to see the attitude and conditions of the two groups of Muslims in Iraq.
The other major group in Iraq, the Kurds, was the least loyal to Sadaam due to his oppression of this group, and appears to be the most loyal group in
working with the American occupiers. The U.S. is still on track to hand over the formal authority of Iraq on June 30 of this year, but Colin Powell
has stated that U.S. forces would have to stay in the country for a considerable amount of time to keep stability.
[Edited on 27-4-2004 by dbates]