Coalition Vows To Destroy Sadr's 'Mahdi Army' Militia
By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Apr. 7, 2004 U.S. officials in Baghdad today vowed to defeat insurgents and restore order in Iraq after a third day of countrywide attacks against Iraqi and coalition forces.
Coalition Provisional Authority officials blamed outlaw Shiite Muslim cleric Muqtada al-Sadr and his "Mahdi Army" militia for many of the recent attacks. Iraqi officials have put out an arrest warrant on Sadr for his alleged role in the murder of a prominent Shiia cleric last year.
"We will attack to destroy the Mahdi Army," Army Brig. Gen. Mark Kimmitt, the coalition's deputy operations director, vowed to reporters during a news conference.
U.S. and coalition counterattacks will be deliberate, precise and powerful, "and they will succeed," he said.
The insurgent attacks in Iraq, Kimmitt noted, represent a struggle between extremism and democracy. The insurgents, he added, want to make Iraq into a country "where anarchy and chaos rule." He said U.S.-coalition and Iraqi security forces "are here to prevent that from happening."
A U.S. Central Command news release today said 12 U.S. Marines were killed April 6 near Ramadi during fighting against insurgent militia.
U.S. and coalition forces also have been fighting in and around Fallujah since April 4 in searches for the persons responsible for the March 31 killing and debasement of four American contractors.
Sadr, now under an arrest warrant for the alleged murder of an Iraqi cleric last year, has called upon Iraqis to rebel against the U.S.-led coalition. CPA officials said they believe Sadr seeks to disrupt the slated June 30 turnover of sovereignty from the coalition to an Iraqi government.
Dan Senor, chief CPA spokesman, said the coalition would be victorious against insurgents seeking to disrupt Iraqi reconstruction and the establishment of a democratic government. The insurgents, he added, want mob violence to dictate the political policies of a new Iraq. "We will not tolerate that now, and we will not tolerate that after June 30," he said. The majority of the Iraqi people, he added, want a new democratic government.