Still Faces Opposition in Iraq, 04/05/04
Despite progress reconstructing many aspects of life in Iraq, U.S. forces continue to square off with Sunni and Shiite Muslims in different parts of the country.
Hundreds of U.S. and Iraqi troops surrounded the turbulent Iraqi city of Fallujah on Monday following last Wednesday's gruesome attack in which an anti-American mob ambushed a group of contractors, beating and dragging four bodies through the streets.
Fallujah is located inside the area known as Iraq's Sunni Triangle, which has been the focal point of Iraqi resistance to the U.S. occupation. Although they make up only about 35 percent of Iraq's population of 24 million, Sunni Arabs played a dominant role in the reign of Saddam Hussein, a fellow Sunni from the region.
Nearly two-thirds of insurgent attacks have taken place in the triangle, where former Saddam cronies still hold power and would like to see the United States fail.
New Shiite threat
However, there were also weekend clashes with the country's Shiite majority, which has mostly avoided violence with coalition forces.
In a coordinated uprising, tens of thousands of men loyal to Muqtada al-Sadr, a 31-year-old Shiite cleric, rose up against the American-led occupation in Baghdad, the holy city of Najaf and at least two other cities in southern Iraq.
At least seven American soldiers were killed in the Baghdad slum, Sadr City, one of the worst single losses for the American forces in any firefight since the capital was captured a year ago. At least 30 Iraqis were killed and more than 110 wounded in the fighting.
Sadr City is named after Sadr's father, Ayatollah Mohammed Sadeq al-Sadr, who was murdered along with two elder sons during the rule of ousted Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein, reportedly for defying the dictator.
Until this weekend,
Sadr was eclipsed by Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, the 73-year-old cleric
who demanded direct elections sooner rather than later and emerged as
the most influential Shiite leader. The two do not talk.
U.S. plans to stop Sadr
Paul Bremer, the top
U.S. administrator in Iraq, declared Sadr an "outlaw" who threatens
An Iraqi judge issued an arrest warrant for Sadr Monday in connection with the killing of another cleric last year at a Najaf mosque.
Meanwhile, President Bush said Monday he remains committed to the June 30 deadline for transferring power to the Iraqis.
"The deadline remains firm," the president told reporters.
Mr. Bush also voiced criticisms of Sadr and his followers.
"This is one person that is deciding that rather than allowing democracy to flourish, he's going to exercise force," the president said. "We just can't let it stand."
By Online NewsHour
© 2004 MacNeil/Lehrer Productions