Sadr Lieutenant Captured, Militia Members Killed
By Sgt. 1st Class Doug Sample, USA
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, May. 26, 2004 Coalition forces in Iraq captured a key lieutenant of radical Islamic cleric Muqtada al-Sadr in Najaf and killed a "large number" of Sadr's militia overnight in Sadr City, a senior coalition military official in Baghdad said today.
Army Brig. Gen. Mark Kimmitt, deputy operations director for Multinational Force Iraq, said Riyad al-Nouri was handed over to Iraqi authorities.
Nouri was wanted by Iraqi authorities on an outstanding warrant in connection with the murder of Ayatollah Sayyed Abdul Majeed al-Khoei in April 2003. Nouri is related to al Sadr by marriage.
Kimmitt also reported that a "large number" of Sadr's militia was killed during 21 separate engagements in Sadr City, where coalition forces went up against small teams firing small arms and rocket-propelled grenades. He said the operations resulted in no coalition casualties or damaged equipment.
"Al-Sadr certainly has less forces today than he had yesterday," Kimmitt told reporters. "Al-Sadr certainly has one less lieutenant today than he did yesterday. One more person associated with the murder of Ayatollah Majeed al- Khoei is now going to face Iraqi justice. We are constantly chipping away at his militia."
Kimmitt said his understanding is that no civilians were killed during the overnight fighting.
Though he said he could not provide a number of militia members killed, Kimmitt said they were "sadly, a very large number, a very large number of probably wayward youths that were somehow convinced, corrupted, connived by persons such as Muqtada al-Sadr into picking up weapons against the coalition and against their fellow Iraqis."
Despite continued engagements with Sadr, Kimmitt said, the coalition still is committed to finding a peaceful resolution. "But until that peaceful resolution comes forward that shows Muqtada al-Sadr in Iraqi custody to face Iraqi justice for his part in the murder of Ayatollah al-Khoei and the disarmament of his militia, we will continue to conduct military operations directed against his forces," he said.
In the 24 hours leading up to today's news conference, coalition forces conducted 1,874 patrols, 24 offensive operations and 40 Air Force and Navy aircraft sorties, and captured 55 anti-coalition suspects.
Kimmitt also reported on other developments in Iraq:
- Some 600 detainees will be released May 28 from the Abu Ghraib prison.
- In the northern zone of operations, the coalition public works team delivered more than $1.1 million worth of equipment and supplies donated by the U.S. Agency for International Development to the Nineveh water and sewer department for infrastructure repair.
- A total of 150 former regime police officers graduated from a three-week transition integration program in Mosul. To date, 14,628 police officers have been retrained through the program.
- In the north central zone of operations, the Khalis chief of police was killed in a drive-by shooting in Baqubah. His driver was also killed.
- In the southeastern zone of operations, angry Iraqis gathered outside the oil metering station on the Faw Peninsula southeast of Basra to protest the lack of fuel for the town's power generator. The Iraqi Civil Defense Corps, with coalition help, dispersed the crowd peacefully.
- No cease-fire violations have been reported since May 3 in Fallujah. Reconstruction efforts there continue, employing more than 1,200 Fallujans. About 1,900 more will be hired in the coming weeks for reconstruction efforts in the city.