Sunni group says it supports Shiite cleric
April 18, 2004
A Sunni Muslim association in Iraq yesterday said it supported the Shi'ite cleric wanted by US-led forces, and called on all Iraqis to evict the occupying troops.
Mohamed Ayash al-Kubaisi, representative of the Muslim Clerics Association abroad, told Arab television Al Arabiya all Iraqis resisting the US-led occupation were working towards the same goal, including radical Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr.
"We support him (Sadr) and he supports us in this resistance. We are in one boat and are responsible for protecting this boat," Kubaisi said, adding his group has issued fatwas, or religious edicts, for ending the occupation.
"Iraqis are aware that it's not in our interests to compete for sectarian gains. The Shiite resistance ... strengthens our will as we are both fighting the same enemy."
Sunni and Shiite militants have been waging some of the fiercest battles seen with US-led forces since the occupation of Iraq, which has included a spate of hostage-taking.
Sadr's core supporters yesterday vowed there would be all-out war if US forces stormed the Shi'ite city of Najaf. A 2500-strong US force is poised near the holy city to kill or capture the young cleric, but has not yet attacked the city.
Kubaisi said his group - which has mediated the release of several foreign hostages in Iraq but denied direct links to kidnappers - was not an armed force, but shared its information and experience with Iraqi fighters.
"We don't support the kidnappings, but the occupation forces are to blame for these actions because this is the natural fruit of their deviant behaviour," he said.
US soldier dies of wounds; mediation fails
Meanwhile, a US soldier died of his wounds after an attack by Shi'ite militiamen near the holy city of Najaf, Brigadier General Mark Kimmitt told a news conference today. He said two militiamen were also killed in the clash yesterday evening.
In other news, mediation between the US-led coalition and Moqtada Sadr has been halted, the wanted Shi'ite cleric's spokesman said yesterday.
"Mediations with the US side have been halted because the mediators have told us the Americans are putting obstacles towards finding solutions to the crisis and the situation is getting worse," Qais al-Khazaali, the head of Sadr's office, told reporters. "We are expecting the Americans to attack Najaf any moment now," he said.
An AFP correspondent in the holy city reported hearing occasional gunfire in the direction of Bahr al-Najaf, north-west of the city, where US troops are believed to be camped