Damage to the mosque has prompted calls for revenge and suicide attacks.
NAJAF, Iraq (AP) – American tanks firing shells and heavy machine guns made their deepest incursion yet Friday into this stronghold of a cleric who launched an uprising last month against the U.S.-led coalition. One of Shia Islam’s holiest shrines was slightly damaged by apparent gunfire, prompting calls for revenge and even suicide attacks.
Top aides of radical cleric Muqtada al-Sadr threatened to unleash more attacks across the once-calm Shiite south and in the fetid Shiite slums of slums of Baghdad. One even urged citizens to register for suicide squads, starting Saturday. Gunmen attacked the coalition headquarters in Nasiriyah, trapping international staff inside.
In Baghdad, Hamid al-Bayati, spokesman for a mainstream Shiite group represented on the Iraqi Governing Council, called the fighting in Najaf, the world’s greatest center of Shiite theology and scholarship, a “big mistake” that could inflame sectarian passions.