Many analysts have spoken of how nice it would be if As-Sadr were arrested by Iraqis. This is like saying it would be nice if he decided to set up an Islamic state on the moon instead of in Iraq. The man has an army of thousands around him, and numerous supporters, won over by his appeals to Islamic purity.
BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) — Supporters of maverick Muslim cleric Muqtada al-Sadr controlled government, religious and security buildings in the holy city of Najaf early Tuesday evening, according to a coalition source in southern Iraq.
The source said al-Sadr’s followers controlled the governor’s office, police stations and the Imam Ali mosque, one of Shia Muslim’s holiest shrines.
Iraqi police were negotiating to regain their stations, the source said.
The source also said al-Sadr was busing followers into Najaf from Sadr City in Baghdad and that many members of his outlawed militia, Mehdi’s Army, were from surrounding provinces.
Business people are closing their shops and either leaving the city or hoarding their wares in their homes, the source said.
Late Tuesday, U.S. Marines moved into Fallujah from several directions, coming under heavy fire from insurgents.
The move comes the day after U.S. Marines sealed off Fallujah in response to the killing and mutilation of four American civilian security contractors last week.
About 1,300 troops from the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force, along with Iraqi armed forces, set up a cordon around the city Monday, said Brig. Gen. Mark Kimmitt, a U.S. military spokesman in Baghdad. The operation has been dubbed Operation Vigilant Resolve.