U.S. troops clashed today with Iraqi fighters from Moqtada al-Sadr’s Mehdi Army militia near the holy city of Najaf. This comes less than 24 hours after the U.S. and the Shiite cleric agreed to a ceasefire that appeared to end a seven-week battle around the holy Shiite cities. The US retreated from its demand that Sadr be captured or killed and for the Mehdi Army to be disbanded. Iraqi officials also agreed to suspend the arrest warrant for Sadr. The New York Times reports there is now talk of giving Sadr a post in the still-to-be-formed Iraqi government after June 30th.
In other Iraq news, gunmen opened fire Thursday on an envoy carrying a member of the Iraqi Governing Council. Salama al-Khafaji survived the attack but her son died.
Two Japanese journalists and their Iraqi translator were killed Thursday when their car was hit by a rocket-propelled grenade south of Baghdad.
Newsday is reporting that many Iraqi women are being held in U.S.-run jails in Iraq not because they have committed a crime but to be used as leverage in securing the arrest of their relatives. Human rights lawyers have said detaining a fugitive’s relatives is a form of “moral coercion” forbidden under the Geneva Conventions.
Meanwhile three U.S. troops died Thursday. More than 800 soldiers have now been killed since the invasion of Iraq.
Back home, California Senator Dianne Feinstein has called on the Food and Drug Administration to reassess the safety of the drug, called mefloquine or lariam. The drug has reportedly caused permanent brain damage in at least six soldiers who fought in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Four-star general Anthony Zinni has publicly defended his patriotism, days after appearing on 60 Minutes lashing out at President Bush’s war in Iraq. He said “We’ve lost 799 kids and another 4,500 are injured and seriously maimed. We’ve spent $200 billion so far. Where are we for all that? Some people are calling me unpatriotic for saying these things. I think it’s unpatriotic not to ask these questions.”
The governor of Georgia has declared a preemptive state of emergency in six cities near where the G-8 Summit is taking place between June 8 and 10. The order will remain in effect until June 20 — 10 days after the summit ends. According to the Gwinnett Daily Post in Georgia, the emergency decree gives police in at least one town, Brunswick, the power to ban protests from happening during the summit. A week ago the Brunswick City Council amended its laws to give police the authority to ban protests without citing any specific reason if a state of emergency is declared. Brunswick is the closest mainland city to Sea Island where the summit is being held.
FBI agents have arrested seven animal rights advocates on domestic terrorism charges for taking part in a campaign to stop a British scientific firm called Huntingdon Life Sciences from conducting lab tests on animals. The FBI conducted a coordinated sweep across the country on Wednesday arresting individuals in the states of New York, New Jersey, Washington and California The government’s indictment charges the organization Stop Huntingdon Animal Cruelty targeted Huntingdon workers and shareholders, as well as companies that provide services to Huntingdon, by posting personal information about employees and their families on its Web sites and encouraging followers to “operate outside the confines of the legal system.” One of those arrested, Joshua Harper of Seattle said “These charges weren’t brought against me because I’m a criminal or a terrorist. They were brought because I’ve been very effective in my activism.” The group claims at least 40 companies — including Citicorp and Merrill Lynch — have stopped dealing with Huntingdon since the campaign began. The arrests may mark the beginning of a wider crackdown. Last week a senior FBI official told Senators that the bureau is conducting more than 190 investigations nationwide into crimes by animal rights or environmental activists.
Newly declassified transcripts provide new evidence that the U.S. helped orchestrate the 1973 coup in Chile where Augusto Pinochet seized power from the democratically elected president Salvador Allende. Shortly after the coup Secretary of State Henry Kissinger told President Nixon “The newspapers are bleeding because a pro-Communist government has been overthrown.” Kissinger then added that he and Nixon would have been heroes in “the Eisenhower period.” Nixon replied “Our hand doesn’t show on this one, though.” Then Kissinger said “We didn’t do it. I mean we helped them.”
In Chicago, hundreds of city residents attended a police board meeting in last night demanding to know how a prominent activist died in police custody. The 55-year-old May Molina died on Wednesday after she was picked up on alleged drug charges. She was the founder of the Families of the Wrongfully Convicted. Relatives said Molina — who was wheelchair-bound — was diabaetic and was denied medication by the police. So many protesters attended the meeting, police board members and the city police superintendent had to be escorted to the exits. The police claim the woman had six undigested bags of heroin in her stomach at the time of her death as well dozens of more bags at her apartment. One attendee at the meeting said “There is no doubt that May Molina was murdered because she is one of the most outspoken political activists for the wrongfully convicted.”