RealNews

Al-Sadr's Standoff Threatens Shiite Unity

Gunmen roam the streets. Most stores are shuttered. The police are powerless and there is no sign of the hordes of pilgrims and visitors who normally throng the streets and pack hotels. Karbala, a Shiite holy city south of Baghdad, has been hard hit by the protracted military showdown between militiamen loyal to radical Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr and U.S. and other coalition troops. Residents, including the city’s top cleric — an ayatollah known for his moderation — says fighting in Karbala and elsewhere has implanted dangerous divisions within Iraq’s majority Shiite community. “I have repeatedly warned since I returned to Iraq from exile last year about internal (Shiite) divisions,” Grand Ayatollah Mohammed Taqi al-Modaresi told The Associated Press. “Today, I find what I warned against, and the marjaiyah (Shiite religious leadership) must do its part to minimize and contain the situation.” Full Story

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