U.S. Risks Alienating Millions Across Muslim World with Major Attack on Holy City of Najaf
excerpted from 12 August 2004 | DemocracyNow! (and other DN! stories of the day)
Thousands of U.S. troops have launched a major attack on the Iraqi city of Najaf, one of the holiest cities in the Muslim world. Shortly after dawn, U.S. tanks moved into the city center to block off roads to the holy Imam Ali Shrine, where the Prophet Muhammad’s son-in-law, Ali, is buried.
Helicopter gunships flew overhead. Warplanes bombed portions of the massive Shiite cemetary where some backers of cleric Moqtada Al Sadr are stationed. Thick black smoke poured into the sky. Thousands of residents in Najaf have fled the city to escape the fighting which has raged on for the past week. Agence France Press is reporting the downtown area looks like a ghost city.
In what could prove to be a dangerous escalation of the conflict, the US is saying that marines have been given permission by the Najaf governor to enter the shrine of Imam Ali to launch an attack.
The thousand year-old mosque of Imam Ali and its nearby cemetery where hundreds of thousands of Muslims are buried is one of the holiest sites the Muslim world. Shiite leaders around the world, including Iran’s top cleric, have condemned the U.S. presence in Najaf and warned against hitting the mosque.
One Shiite told the Los Angeles Times “Any attack on that city will destroy America’s future in Iraq completely. It will completely discredit America and make it the new tyrant in the eyes of Shias worldwide.”