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But soon after the seizure was announced, a senior Sadr aide said the statement was untrue.
"The shrine is in the control of the Mehdi Army," said Sheikh Ahmad al-Sheibani, a top militia commander.
"The Mehdi Army will resist any attempt by the Iraqi police to control the shrine."
"Procedures are under way to hand over control of the shrine to Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani," he added, referring to Iraq's most influential Shiite cleric.
Iraqi police in Najaf told CNN they did not control the Imam Ali Mosque.
And US Rear Admiral Greg Slavonic said he could not confirm the Najaf mosque was in government hands.
Sadr 'gives up keys to mosque'
From correspondents in London
August 21, 2004
MILITIAMEN loyal to Shiite radical leader Moqtada Sadr handed the keys of Najaf's Imam Ali shrine to representatives of Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani today, a spokesman for the top Shiite cleric said.
"The keys were handed to the office (in Najaf)," the ayatollah's spokesman, Sayed Murtadha al-Kashmiri, said in London, where the cleric has been receiving medical treatment.
From Sammy Ketz in Najaf, Iraq
August 21, 2004
SHIITE militiamen holed up in the Iraqi holy city of Najaf handed over the keys of their stronghold to aides of their faith's top cleric today, but denied they had capitulated in their 16-day standoff with US-backed security forces.
The handover of the keys to representatives of Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani appeared to provide a face-saving way out of the crisis for militia leader Moqtada Sadr after his supporters earlier scoffed at government claims he had surrendered control of the Imam Ali shrine to Iraqi police.
A local pipeline linking the main northern Iraqi oilfields of Kirkuk to the Baiji refinery was also damaged when a bomb exploded, hampering oil distribution, said a firefighter attached to the North Oil Company.
KIRKUK, Iraq - A local pipeline linking the main northern Iraqi oilfields of Kirkuk to the Baiji refinery was damaged when a makeshift bomb exploded early on Friday, hampering oil distribution, said a security source.
The bomb detonated at 8:30 am (0230 GMT), 30 kilometres (19 miles) west of Kirkuk, said fire fighter Ali Abdullah attached to the state-run North Oil Company, giving no further details.
"We handed over the keys to al-Sistani's office, but the actual handing over of the shrine has not happened yet," he said.
"There are some issues that still need to be arranged and we are waiting a committee from al-Sistani's office to finish the procedure."
Originally posted by marg6043
It seems that as this morning the shrine was still out of the hand of the Iraqi goverment and that the militia were waiting for some other cleric to come and take over.
And as Sadr not body knows where he is.
August 25, 2004
A SHIITE insurgency appeared to be weakening as Iraqi forces moved to within 200m of the revered Imam Ali Shrine and Iraq's defence minister once again demanded fighters loyal to a radical cleric surrender or face a violent raid.
This is the Prophet