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MSNBC: Aides say radical Shiite cleric wounded by shrapnel


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NAJAF, Iraq - Iraqi officials and aides to a radical Shiite cleric negotiated Friday to end fighting that has raged in the holy city of Najaf for nine days, after American forces suspended an offensive against Muqtada al-Sadr's militia, officials said. Aides said al-Sadr had been wounded by shrapnel during U.S. shelling.

With the talks ongoing, the U.S. military said Friday that it had suspended offensive operations against al-Sadr's Mahdi Army militia, who are holed up the city's vast cemetery and the Imam Ali shrine, one of the holiest sites to Shiite Muslims.

“We are allowed to engage the enemy only in self defense and long enough to break contact," said Maj. Bob Pizzateli, executive officer for the 1st Battalion, 5th Cavalry Regiment of the 1st Cavalry Division. "That was a blanket order for everybody."

He said the militia appeared to have stopped most attacks as well, and the city appeared quieter Friday, a day after the U.S. military announced it had begun a major offensive to rout the militants.

"Hopefully the talks will go well and everything will be resolved peacefully," Pizzateli said.

Najaf Gov. Adnan al-Zurufi said the talks were between Iraqi government officials and al-Sadr's representatives. National Security Adviser Mouwaffaq al-Rubaie traveled to Najaf on Thursday. U.S. officials were not involved in the talks, al-Zurufi said.

Despite the talks, the U.S. military said it was still maintaining a cordon around the shrine, the cemetery and Najaf's old city, where the militants had taken refuge, Pizzateli said.

Meantime, the U.S. military said Friday that an American soldier was killed in the fighting in Najaf. The soldier, from a special forces unit, was killed during a raid on Thursday on a school.

Also Friday, gunmen kidnapped a British journalist in the southern city of Basra and threatened to execute him within 24 hours if U.S. forces did not pull out of Najaf, witnesses and a videotape showed.

Al-Sadr reportedly wounded by shrapnel

Al-Sadr, who has led an uprising against coalition troops for more than a week in the holy city, was hit by shrapnel in the chest and twice in a leg as he met with members of his Mahdi Army militia near the Imam Ali shrine early Friday, said aide Haider al-Tousi.

Another of al-Sadr's spokesmen said the cleric's condition was stable.

However, Iraq's interior minister said the cleric is unhurt and is negotiating with the government to leave the Imam Ali shrine.

"Sayyed Muqtada will not be touched if he leaves the shrine peacefully. A truce has been in force since last night," Iraq's Interior Minister Falah Naqib said Friday.

No immediate explanation was available for the contradictory reports on al-Sadr's health.

On Thursday, thousands of U.S. and Iraqi troops sealed off Najaf's vast cemetery, its old city and the Imam Ali shrine, as well as unleashing a tank, infantry and helicopter assault against al-Sadr's supporters. The assault sent billows of black smoke drifting across Najaf amid the clatter of military helicopters, as gunmen in a house near the shrine shot at U.S. forces patrolling the 5-square-mile cemetery.

Troops also stormed the radical cleric's home, but he was not there.

Al-Sadr may be holed up in the compound housing the revered Imam Ali shrine, along with his loyalists, while one aide, Haider al-Tousi, said he was moved to an unknown destination.

The radical cleric urged his followers to remain calm.

"We got a letter from him saying 'Be steadfast and behave rationally, don't surrender to your emotions,"' Aws al-Khafaji, from al-Sadr's office in the southern town of Nasiriyah, told the Al-Jazeera Arab television on Friday.

Violence, protests spread

The Najaf offensive threatened to enrage Iraq’s Shiite majority — especially if the fighting damages the shrine — and presented the biggest test yet for interim Prime Minister Iyad Allawi, a secular Shiite who is trying to crush the violence plaguing the country while working to persuade Iraqis of the legitimacy of his unelected government.

The violence has spread to other Shiite communities, and protests against the U.S. military campaign in Najaf broke out in five cities on Friday, with

some demonstrators calling for Allawi to step down.

Mahdi Army militants killed two police officers in an ambush outside the southern city of Nasiriyah on Thursday afternoon, police said Friday.

A three-hour overnight battle between the militants and police outside a police station in the southern city of Diwaniyah killed one militant, according to police Capt. Ali al-Zeyadi.

Thousands of al-Sadr supporters, including some police officers, demonstrated Friday outside Baghdad’s Green Zone enclave, which houses the U.S. Embassy and government offices.

In the largely Sunni town of Samarra, 60 miles north of Baghdad, about 700 people staged a protest, demanding that U.S. troops leave Najaf and chanting “Long live al-Sadr.”

In Fallujah, the heart of the Sunni insurgency, about 3,000 people demonstrated in support of al-Sadr, chanting “Fallujah is with Najaf, the target is America.”

In one of the biggest protests, enraged Iraqis in the southern town of Diwaniya swarmed over the local office of Allawi's political party, ripping down signs and throwing rocks.

Iraq’s top Shiite Muslim cleric, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, who left Najaf for London to undergo medical treatment before fighting broke out, expressed “deep sorrow and great worry” about the violence and called on all sides to end the crisis quickly. His office was working to mediate an end to the fighting, he said.

Violence across the country, much of it involving al-Sadr’s fighters, has killed at least 172 Iraqis and injured 643 since Wednesday morning, the Health Ministry said.

The casualty toll from Thursday’s fighting in the holy city was unclear. At least five Iraqi civilians were killed by the afternoon, said Nabil Mohammed, a health worker in the city. Two American soldiers were wounded by a mortar shell while standing in an intersection on the cemetery’s edge, the military said.

The U.S. Defense Department said that about 2,200 Marines, along with 500 to 1,000 soldiers and an undisclosed number of U.S.-trained Iraqi troops, were involved in the offensive Thursday.

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Everytime these guys get their butts kicked, they decide to talk. They did this last time and as soon as their numbers were up they started fighting again.

Hopefully we stick to our guns this time, dead or in handcuffs. No other way out.

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I agree Destino... allowing them to drop their weapons and leave isn't an option. They know if they negotiate with that in mind than we'll oblige... and they just walk away and pick up another gun at the safe house around the corner.

Nope!! It's a plastic tie around your hands or a body bag.... one or the other. I'd prefer a bullet through the brain..... but... well.... you know.

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Originally posted by Destino

Everytime these guys get their butts kicked, they decide to talk. They did this last time and as soon as their numbers were up they started fighting again.

Hopefully we stick to our guns this time, dead or in handcuffs. No other way out.

That is a Arab custom,if you are losing negotiate untill you are strong enough to fight again,it is even advocated in the Koran.The only way to deal with armed resistance is to crush it completely.Sadaam was a master at it ,that is how he stayed in power.
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Originally posted by OURYEAR#56

Weren't we cool wth the shiites. I mean these were the same sect that Hussien was oppressing. The chemical gas that Hussien unleashed weer on shiite muslims, right?

A majority of the Shiites are cool with us removing Sadaam ,but they now are fighting for their own power structure.The different mullahs crave power to project their special views.Islam has as many or more different views as christianity.
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An issue that hasn't been discussed, that I have seen, is the resulting long term deficit burden that Americans will have to pay because of this tax cut. And for a lot of us, this will run in the thousand of dollars, in trade for the few hundred dollars in a tax return bonus we'd receive. It is not a good trade-off.

This page has some data regarding this issue - in fact, you can see the amount that you will owe, depending upon your tax bracket:


Also, there are many taxes, such as payrolls, that wealthy Americans do not pay, as well as additional writeoffs that are available to them to lessen the tax impact. BTW, it seems that many folks are confusing the personal income of a person in the upper income brackets with corporate income. A wealthy person is not necessarily going to reinvest their personal income, as opposed to a corporation - they are not necessarily one and the same.

Some people simply accumulate money without reinvesting it. The virutes of this can be debated, but it is a reality that folks ignore when they say that "when the wealthy are taxed heavily, they cannot reinvest."

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