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Chalabi Returns to Iraq; Fighting Persists in Najaf

An Iraqi judge issued an arrest warrant against Chalabi on money counterfeiting charges last week. The judge also issued a warrant against Chalabi’s nephew Salem for murder.

“Dr. Ahmad is in Baghdad. We cannot say anything more, given the security situation and the legal conditions,” said Haidar Moussawi, a spokesman for the Iraqi National Congress, which Chalabi heads, Reuters reported.

Both have denied the charges, saying they were politically motivated.

Also Wednesday, U.S. Marines postponed a planned final major assault on Shiite militiamen in the holy city of Najaf, after seven days of fighting with radical Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr’s militia have reportedly left hundreds dead.

Al-Sadr has urged his followers to continue fighting even if he is killed or captured.

Earlier Wednesday, the U.S. military said it was training Iraqi security forces for a final assault, but U.S. Marine Maj. David Holahan later said, “Preparations to do the offensive are taking longer than initially anticipated. … It doesn’t matter now, they know we’re coming,” the Associated Press reported.

U.S. troops and al-Sadr’s Mahdi Army have been battling among some of Iraq’s holiest Shiite Muslim sites in Najaf.

It was unclear whether the assault would involve raiding Najaf’s holiest site, the Imam Ali Shrine, according to the Associated Press. The military has said insurgents are using the shrine as a refuge.

Iraqi police set up checkpoints that cut Najaf in two as U.S. troops skirmished with al-Sadr’s militia.

Militiamen fired on U.S. troops from a multistory hotel just 400 yards from the Imam Ali Shrine, reported the AP. U.S. helicopter gunships struck the building with rockets, missiles and 30 mm cannons on Tuesday, killing 20 people, the military said.

Elsewhere, a roadside bomb exploded Wednesday in a market north of Baghdad, killing at least six Iraqis and wounding nine others, a hospital official said.

Additionally, a Web site used by Islamic extremists carried video of the beheading of man they claim was a CIA agent in Iraq, according to a Reuters report. The video could not be immediately authenticated, but reportedly showed a man seated with a sign in Arabic around his neck that read “CIA Agent”. In the four-minute video, masked men decapitate the western looking man and then show his severed head.

Iraqi and American officials did not immediately comment on the reported beheading.

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