Nassiriyah (AsiaNews) – Today, a spokesman from “Martyr Al-Sadr’s Office” declared Jihad, saying the holy city of Nassiriyah must not be occupied by foreign troops.
This was the first time in 20 years that Shiite religious leaders have declared holy war against any foreign power. Meanwhile, a spokesman from the same office in Baghdad, has asked Al-Mahdi militia forces to start heading for Najaf.
On several occasions Shiite imams have warned about the danger of militarily trespassing on the two holy Shiite towns, which Ayatollah Al-Sistani himself said were “off-limits” to foreign troops.
Moreover, for the first time in many years Friday prayer was cancelled at Imam Hussein’s mosque in Karbala “due to the bad situation” and by way a decree issued by Ayatollah Al-Sistani. Meanwhile, 4 people have died and 13 were wounded in violent conflict that broke out in Karabala late yesterday.
This morning heavy fighting erupted in Najaf, where prayer services were also cancelled. Battling were American soldiers and Moqtada Al-Sadr Al-Mahdi militants. Around 7.00 a.m. (Iraqi time) a series of explosions ripped through downtown Najaf while gunfire was heard criss-crossing city streets. …
Al-Mahdi militia units have taken control of buildings around Najaf’s holy sites and hotels where Shiite pilgrims are staying, most of whom are from Iran.
Many witnesses have said that Imam Moqtada Al-Sadr has not set out for Kufa (a town 20 km from Najaf) to attend Friday prayer services, like he has done every week since taking refuge in Najaf.