Probably the same bells and whistles that visiting a site called "Above top secret" sets off...
Originally posted by Gazrok
I'd be curious to see what Al-Jazeera says.... (I can't visit the site while at work, as I have no idea what kinds of bells and whistles that will
set off, hehe...)
Conflicting reports over Imam Ali mosque
Friday 20 August 2004, 18:36 Makka Time, 15:36 GMT
Conflicting reports have emerged from Najaf concerning control of the Imam Ali mosque after a Muqtada al-Sadr spokesperson denied the presence of any
Iraqi police within the grounds of the holy shrine.
The Iraqi Interior Ministry said on Friday that police had entered the revered site and taken about 400 al-Mahdi Army militiamen into custody after
al-Sadr's aides symbolically handed control of the site to Iraq's senior Shia religious authorities
"The Iraqi police are now in control of the shrine, along with the religious authorities," said senior Interior Ministry spokesman Sabah Kadhim.
There was no immediate word on whether the militiamen would receive an amnesty or remain in detention. The whereabouts of al-Sadr also remain
Iraqi report denied
But in an interview with Aljazeera, an al-Sadr aide, Ahmad al-Shaibani, denied police had entered the site and said Kadhim's statement was
"There were no al-Mahdi Army men in the holy shrine as of this morning - they are all in the old sector of the city and there is intense fighting
with US troops there," al-Shaibani told Aljazeera.
Meanwhile, a top US military officer in Iraq said he could not confirm the country's police had taken control of the mosque in Najaf on Friday, and
added the whereabouts of al-Sadr were unknown.
"Right now, we cannot confirm that," Rear Admiral Greg Slavonic told Reuters when asked about Iraqi government statements that police had seized the
Imam Ali Mosque and arrested hundreds of al-Sadr's Shia fighters.
A US defence official went further and denied Iraqi government claims that Iraqi police had entered the holy shrine.
"Not a lick of truth to it," said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity. "We are still outside of the shrine, and so are the Iraqi
Al-Shaibani told Aljazeera hours earlier that control of the religious site had been given to representatives of the country's most senior Shia
"The keys of the Imam Ali shrine have been handed over to representatives of the Shia highest religious authority, Ayat Allah Ali al-Sistani"
"The keys of the Imam Ali shrine have been handed over to representatives of the Shia highest religious authority, Ayat Allah Ali al-Sistani," said
"This step means the administration of the Imam Ali mausoleum has been submitted to the religious authority in the city," he added.
The handover comes after two days of dire warnings by the Iraqi interim government that al-Sadr's militia should withdraw from Najaf and disband, or
face a decisive military assault.
Fighting in the area has been fierce. At least 77 Iraqis have been killed and 70 wounded in fighting in Najaf over the past 24 hours, Iraq's Health
Ministry said on Friday. Six of those killed in Najaf were police killed in a mortar attack.
Najaf awoke to an uneasy calm on Friday - punctuated by occasional gunfire - hours after an overnight US bombing raid shook the historic area of the
On Thursday, the Iraq's interim Prime Minister Iyad Allawi issued a "final call" to al-Sadr and his fighters to leave the shrine - though he did
not mention a deadline.
Allawi has issued a 'final call' for al-Mahdi Army fighters to pull out. But the US-backed premier has faced a dilemma in trying to oust the
al-Mahdi Army militia from their entrenched position within the Imam Ali mosque complex.
The site is widely revered by Muslims, especially Shia believers. An assault - particularly one involving US forces - risked igniting a dangerous
US officials have said their troops were unlikely take part in an attack on the mosque site - although US marines, tanks and aircraft have been
clearly active around the area.
Television broadcasts on Friday showed two of the mosque's minarets were marked by shrapnel, while a clock in one of the towers had been damaged.
Despite the handover of the Imam Ali mosque, al-Sadr's aides suggested the al-Mahdi Army remained an active force, though the Shia leader's movement
wants to conclude a peace deal with the government.
Al-Shaibani told Aljazeera al-Sadr's movement "has not closed the door towards negotiations with the Iraqi government to end fighting in Najaf but
it is not ready to surrender."
Asked earlier whether fighters of the al-Mahdi Army would leave the shrine if a deal were struck, al-Shaibani said: "Any fighter who wants to enter
it will have to leave his weapon outside."
The Shia militiamen had been running the Imam Ali shrine since an earlier uprising in April.
Earlier on Friday, our correspondent reported that an intense artillery barrage hit the cemetery, the old sectors of the city and buildings around the
Imam Ali mosque in the early hours.