Conflicting are coming out of Iraq that Shiite cleric Moqtada al Sadr has been injured during a U.S. attack on the holy city of Najaf. One spokesperson for the cleric said “The injuries are in his chest, legs and arms. He was hurt in an attack while checking one of the fighting battalions.” But another said “Moqtada was not hurt and there is a lull in fighting from last night.” Sadr printed up a statement that was handed out to his followers in Najaf. It read “If I die a martyr or if I am taken prisoner, I urge the Al-Mahdi army to continue to fight the occupation forces.”
The U.S. assaulted Najaf with fighter jet planes in the air and tanks on the ground. Smoke engulfed the center of the city. And fighting continued in the holy cemetery outside the city where over 2 million Shiite Muslims from around the world are buried. Yesterday U.S. forces raided Sadr’s house in Najaf but he was not home. The U.S. urged residents of Najaf to leave the city. One announcement from the U.S. to the residents read “Leave the city. Help coalition forces and do not fire at them. We are here to liberate the city.” Meanwhile in Baghdad, followers of Sadr were urged to travel to Najaf today after Friday prayers to help fight the U.S. forces.
Protests are continuing around the Shiite world against the attacks on Najaf, one of the holiest cities in the Muslim world.
Yesterday Najaf’s deputy governor Jawdat Kadam Najem al-Kuraishi and half of the 30-member provincial council resigned to protest the US assault. The deputy governor said “I resign from my post denouncing all the US terrorist operations that they are doing against this holy city.”
In Iran, thousands marched through the streets of Tehran to protest the U.S. actions in Najaf.
In Basra, members of the Iraqi resistance have kidnapped a British reporter from the Sunday Telegraph. A videotape has been released showing a hooded militant standing next to the journalist, James Brandon. The militant is heard saying, “We demand the American forces withdraw from Najaf within 24 hours or we will kill this British hostage.”
Negotiations have begun between Iraq’s interim government and Sadr over ways to end the standoff. High ranking governmental officials have called on Sadr to leave the holy shrine.
And The International Committee of the Red Cross announced yesterday it had deep concerns about a spike in deadly clashes in flashpoint cities across Iraq including Najaf, Kut and Sadr City in Baghdad.
Meanwhile as the fighting continues world oil prices have smashed record highs for the second time in 48 hours.
In New Jersey, governor Jim McGreevey held a stunning press conference yesterday where he announced that he was resigning from the office because he had an affair with another man. The governor said “I am a Gay American.” He said “Shamefully, I engaged in adult consensual affairs with another man, which violates my bonds of matrimony. It was wrong, it was foolish, it was inexcusable.” McGreevey became perhaps the country’s highest ranking politician to ever come out while serving in office. McGreevey announced his resignation ahead of a sexual harassment lawsuit which is expected to be filed shortly by his former aide. We’ll have more on this in a few minutes.
Meanwhile in California, the state Supreme Court voided the marriages of some 4,000 same sex couples who married in San Francisco earlier this year. The court ruled that San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom had overstepped his authority by issuing the marriage licenses to same sex couples.
This update on the investigation as to who within the White House outted Valerie Plame as a CIA agent…New York Times reporter Judith Miller has become the latest reporter subpoenaed to the grand jury investigating the leak.
A senior Israeli military official has told the Israeli newspaper Yediot Aharonot that Israel could withdraw from the Golan Heights as part of an eventual peace deal with Syria.
In Nablus, three BBC journalists were held at gunpoint for hour hours by Israeli forces after the army interupted their interview with a Palestinian doctor and one of his 85-year-old patients. Troops confiscated their tapes and phones. The Israeli army claimed the journalists had walked into an undercover operation.
And civil rights leader Jesse Jackson and Congressman Dennis Kucinich have signed an open letter of support to Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez who faces a recall vote on Sunday. The letter reads in part “We are disturbed by our own government’s interference in your internal affairs. The National Endowment for Democracy (NED), a group funded by the U.S. Congress, has financed radical opposition leaders in their efforts to cut short your term. Some of the individuals funded by the NED participated in the April 2002 coup attempt against you.” Other signers of the letter include Historian Howard Zinn, journalist Naomi Klein and Blase Bonpane.
And over a million people in Cuba and Florida have been forced to evacuate their homes to escape from the approaching Hurricane Charley. Charley’s expected 120 mile per hour winds and massive storm surge could devastate low-lying areas in Tampa and St. Petersburg.
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