Shiite cleric warns Iraqi government to halt crackdown on his followers or he will declare open war


Story Transcript

VOICE OF CARLO BASILONE, PRODUCER:
US and Iraqi troops backed by US aircraft raided the Baghdad Shiite neighbourhood of Sh’la early on Sunday. The fighting left at least six people dead, including two children.

Sheikh Ala Mutliq Hamad, Local resident:
As we were sleeping at our homes, the American pigs (troops) raided our area and the aircraft bombed our homes. Moreover, American armoured vehicles entered our alleys.

VOICE OF CARLO BASILONE, PRODUCER:
in the Sadr City area of Baghdad, six more people were killed and more than 15 wounded as a result of an air strike and sporadic clashes.

Um Hussein, local resident:
”Why do aircraft and missiles pound us? They destroyed our houses and our properties.”

VOICE OF CARLO BASILONE, PRODUCER:
The previous day in Sadr city, at least 14 people were killed and 84 wounded In clashes, with US and Iraqi forces battling militia fighters.

On Saturday night Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr issued a “final warning” to the government to halt the US-Iraqi crackdown against his followers or he would declare “open war until liberation.”

Nassar Al-Rubai, Spokesman for Al Sadr block in Najaf:
“I direct my last warning and speech to the Iraqi government to refrain and to take the path of peace, and abandon violence with its people. Otherwise it will be similar to Saddam’s government, if everybody sided with the government – they were our allies in the past and they will be our allies in the future – since there are no feelings in politics. If the government does not refrain and does not leash the militias that have penetrated it, we will announce an open war until liberation”.

VOICE OF CARLO BASILONE, PRODUCER:
Reactions on Sunday were hopeful.

Ju’ma al-Quraishi, Local resident
”We are for peaceful solutions, we want to get out of this current crisis. Tension and war are not good, they are unacceptable. We hope that the government and Sadr bloc will sit together at a roundtable and find a positive outcome.

VOICE OF CARLO BASILONE, PRODUCER:
With some expressing support for the cleric.

Abbas Fadhil, local resident
”I fully support Sayyid Muqtada al-Sadr’s letter. The Iraqi government and US army have destroyed Sadr city. They also harmed the whole Iraqi people in Basra and Sadr city.”

VOICE OF CARLO BASILONE, PRODUCER:
And as US Secretary of State Condileezza rice made a surprise visit to Baghdad to meet with Iraqi, A US military spokesman said that al-Sadr, had been a significant contributor to a decrease in violence in Iraq.

Rear Admiral Patrick Driscoll, spokesman for Multi-National Force – Iraq:
“In terms of Muqtada al-Sadr, I just want to say that his pledge that he made last year for the freeze has been a contributor, a significant contributor, to the decrease in violence that we’ve seen since 2007. When the surge hit its peak in 2007, we’ve seen a decline on the violence and one of the contributing factors of that is the fact that Moqtada al-Sadr pledged that his followers would freeze.”


Story Transcript

VOICE OF CARLO BASILONE, PRODUCER: US and Iraqi troops backed by US aircraft raided the Baghdad Shiite neighbourhood of Sh’la early on Sunday. The fighting left at least six people dead, including two children. Sheikh Ala Mutliq Hamad, Local resident: As we were sleeping at our homes, the American pigs (troops) raided our area and the aircraft bombed our homes. Moreover, American armoured vehicles entered our alleys. VOICE OF CARLO BASILONE, PRODUCER: in the Sadr City area of Baghdad, six more people were killed and more than 15 wounded as a result of an air strike and sporadic clashes. Um Hussein, local resident: ”Why do aircraft and missiles pound us? They destroyed our houses and our properties.” VOICE OF CARLO BASILONE, PRODUCER: The previous day in Sadr city, at least 14 people were killed and 84 wounded In clashes, with US and Iraqi forces battling militia fighters. On Saturday night Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr issued a "final warning" to the government to halt the US-Iraqi crackdown against his followers or he would declare "open war until liberation." Nassar Al-Rubai, Spokesman for Al Sadr block in Najaf: "I direct my last warning and speech to the Iraqi government to refrain and to take the path of peace, and abandon violence with its people. Otherwise it will be similar to Saddam’s government, if everybody sided with the government – they were our allies in the past and they will be our allies in the future – since there are no feelings in politics. If the government does not refrain and does not leash the militias that have penetrated it, we will announce an open war until liberation". VOICE OF CARLO BASILONE, PRODUCER: Reactions on Sunday were hopeful. Ju’ma al-Quraishi, Local resident ”We are for peaceful solutions, we want to get out of this current crisis. Tension and war are not good, they are unacceptable. We hope that the government and Sadr bloc will sit together at a roundtable and find a positive outcome. VOICE OF CARLO BASILONE, PRODUCER: With some expressing support for the cleric. Abbas Fadhil, local resident ”I fully support Sayyid Muqtada al-Sadr’s letter. The Iraqi government and US army have destroyed Sadr city. They also harmed the whole Iraqi people in Basra and Sadr city.” VOICE OF CARLO BASILONE, PRODUCER: And as US Secretary of State Condileezza rice made a surprise visit to Baghdad to meet with Iraqi, A US military spokesman said that al-Sadr, had been a significant contributor to a decrease in violence in Iraq. Rear Admiral Patrick Driscoll, spokesman for Multi-National Force – Iraq: "In terms of Muqtada al-Sadr, I just want to say that his pledge that he made last year for the freeze has been a contributor, a significant contributor, to the decrease in violence that we’ve seen since 2007. When the surge hit its peak in 2007, we’ve seen a decline on the violence and one of the contributing factors of that is the fact that Moqtada al-Sadr pledged that his followers would freeze.”