Wednesday, April 07, 2004

Reports of heavy fighting these last few days in the Sunni Triangle and the Shi'a areas are streaming in from Iraq. I heard at 10:00 of the bringing down of a U.S. helicopter in al-Baquba.

The New York Times, in the latest report, updated at 10:00 today, less than half an hour ago, says that on Sunday, three days ago, Ayatollah Sistani issued a fatwa urging Iraq's Shiites to stay calm.

So far, though, followers of Moktada al-Sadr have been ignoring it. His black-clad militiamen have rolled over Iraqi security forces in a number of cities, including al-Kufa, an-Najaf, an-Nasiriya, al-Basra and Baghdad, and taken over government offices.

The Ukrainian defense ministry reported that its contingent retreated from al-Kut, south of Baghdad, early today under pressure from Shiite militia. "At the request of the Americans, and to preserve the life of our military, the commander of the Ukrainian contingent decided to evacuate the civil administration staff and Ukrainian troops from Kut," the ministry said in a statement, according to Agence France-Presse.


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