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August 13, 2004
Sadr Injured As Mahdis Reel From Blow

The BBC reports that radical Shi'ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr has been injured "in three places" in the heavy fighting in Najaf, and the joint Iraqi-American offensive against the Mahdi militia has resulted in stunning losses for the part-time rebel:

The radical Iraqi Shia cleric Moqtada Sadr has been wounded in fighting in the holy city of Najaf, according to his spokesmen. There are no details as yet about Mr Sadr's condition, though he was said to have been wounded "in three places". ...

Mr Sadr is said to be holed up in the sacred compound housing the shrine with his followers. He has urged supporters to keep up the fight even if he is killed or arrested.

His aides had tears in their eyes as they spoke of his injuries.

It's not their only reason to cry; according to the BBC, the battle has them almost at the point of annihilation:

Defence Minister Hazim al-Shalaan said 1,200 suspected fighters - many of them non-Iraqis - had been captured in the huge cemetery which has become a key battleground in Najaf.

He also claimed several successes for the Iraqi security forces in various parts of Iraq:

* Iraqi forces repelled attacks by Sadr-related groups in Nasiriya, capturing 47 fighters.
* In Kut, 400 insurgents were defeated.
* Protests, some violent, had been staged in Amara.
* Iraqi forces isolated militants inside Baghdad's Sadr City area by blocking exits; 300 explosive devices were found.
* Elsewhere in Baghdad, safe houses used by former Baathists were attacked and the leader of a "dangerous group" was arrested.

Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani claims that had he known that the Iraqi government would have authorized a crackdown on this scale, he never would have left Iraq for medical treatment in London. However, some have openly questioned whether Sistani knowingly stepped aside to allow Allawi to finally eliminate Sadr as a rebel and as a threat to Sistan's moderate power base. In either case, the Allawi government has made shrewd use of Sistani's absence, whether his intention or not, and their timing will allow Sistani to maintain his credibility among the Shi'a while Sadr's soon-to-be permanent absence will fragment the radicals.

Losing 1,200 fighters in the cemetery battlefield would constitute the better part of the entire Mahdi militia. Sadr doesn't have much left. Allawi has extended an offer for those who occupy the Imam Ali mosque to surrender honorably and be treated well, but it appears that the offer did not extend to Sadr himself. It would not surprise me to if the Iraqis invade the mosque within the next 48 hours.

Allawi, it appears, means business.

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at August 13, 2004 12:15 AM

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