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Arrest Warrant Issued for Iraqi Shi'ite Cleric al-Sadr

Baghdad -- Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) spokesman Dan Senor publicly revealed April 5 that an Iraqi judge has issued an arrest warrant for Shi'ite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr in connection with the 2003 murder of another cleric at a mosque in the city of Najaf.

Senor also announced that Iraqi police have arrested Mustafa al-Yacoubi in connection with the same murder, that of Ayatollah Abdul Majid al-Khoei and one of his aides.

Senor answered many questions about law enforcement issues at a CPA briefing in Baghdad. While Yacoubi is in police custody and will be tried in an Iraqi court by Iraqi judges according to Iraqi law, Senor said the warrant has yet to be served to al-Sadr.

Although several individuals have been in custody for some time in connection with the al-Khoei murder, the CPA spokesman said the Iraqi judicial system is only now ready to bring the case to trial in a court of law. "It isn't our investigation," he pointed out, but he added that coalition officials have been working with the Iraqi investigative judge on the case.

Army Brigadier General Mark Kimmitt, deputy director of coalition operations for Combined Joint Task Force-Seven, who also briefed with Senor, said it is up to al-Sadr to react to the news of his arrest warrant by surrendering peacefully or not.

The cleric can surrender at any Iraqi police station or wait to have the warrant served, Kimmitt said. Whatever al-Sadr decides, he will be treated with dignity and respect, the general said: "He'll be treated the same way every other alleged criminal in the Iraqi justice system is treated."

Kimmitt said offensive coalition military operations have accelerated "to kill or capture anti-coalition elements and enemies of the Iraqi people." He said the coalition is conducting offensive operations in response to the casualties that occurred recently in Fallujah.

Anyone who incites or executes violence "against persons inside Iraq will be hunted down and captured or killed," Kimmitt said. He singled out actions by al-Sadr's Mahdi Army in the 48 hours prior to the briefing, saying its actions were inconsistent with providing a safe and secure environment in Iraq. "We will take action, as and when necessary," he said, to maintain security in Iraq.

Addressing the CPA's policy toward private militias in Iraq, Kimmitt said, "Militias are inconsistent with a democratic and sovereign nation with a central government. We are particularly focused upon militias ... attacking coalition forces ... Iraqi forces ... (and) Iraqi civilians."

Because militias are banned in Iraq, coalition forces will take action against them when they generate violence, Kimmitt said, and they will go after militia leaders as well as individuals in the middle and bottom layers of the structure.

Kimmitt's comments were made after a day of unrest in Iraq on April 4 in cities such as Basra, Baghdad, Najaf, Nasiriyah and Amarah. By April 5, he said, the situation was "relatively quiet."

"We have an obligation to maintain a safe and secure environment," Kimmitt said. While coalition forces are often busy fixing schools, health clinics and sewers, their first responsibility is for security, he said, so they are always ready to put down their paint brushes and raise their weapons "to defend the people of Iraq and ... ensure that the process of taking this country to democracy and sovereignty will not be impeded."

Kimmitt and Senor also were questioned about the approaching June 30 deadline for the CPA to turn over political authority to an interim Iraqi government. The plan remains in place, the CPA spokesman said. "But we also made a commitment that after June 30, we will still have a major role in helping to reconstruct this country," he said, "and ... that will continue on June 30th."

Although CPA Administrator Paul Bremer will leave in June, the coalition will still be assigned a security role alongside Iraqi forces, Senor said, "and we will still be deploying billions and billions of dollars in the reconstruction of Iraq, which will be spread over several years."


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