Heavy fighting has resumed in Najaf as U.S. war planes bombed parts of the holy city overnight. Backers of cleric Moqtada al Sadr report the outer walls of the Imam Ali Shrine were damaged in the attacks. On Friday a spokesman for Iraq’s interior minister said that Sadr had agreed to surrender control of the Imam Ali shrine and that Iraqi police were in control of the complex. But the claims proved to be false.
At least five U.S. soldiers died over the weekend. More than 950 U.S. service members have now died since the invasion began.
Meanwhile in New Hampshire, a member of the state’s Air National Guard has killed himself one day after returning home from Iraq from a six-month tour. Technical Sergeant Dave Guindon was 48 years old. The Iraq war marked the first time members of New Hampshire’s Air National Guard had ever participated in Army combat missions.
In other news from Iraq, the U.S. journalist Micah Garen was released yesterday after 8 days in captivity. He was working in Iraq investigating the looting of ancient archeological sites in the Nasiriya area.
In news from Afghanistan, the U.S. military has barred a UN human rights expert from visiting detention centers in Afghanistan where former detainees say they were abused and tortured. The UN official was allowed to see one prison run by the Afghan authorities. He described the conditions as “inhuman.”
Nine Republican members of the Senate Intelligence committee have called for a radical overhaul of the national’s intelligence gathering operations by stripping considerable power from the CIA and Pentagon and giving it to a new national intelligence director. The Washington Post reports the plan came as shock to both Senate Democrats and the White House.
On the campaign front, John Kerry’s service in Vietnam remained the top story in the presidential race over the weekend. On Friday, Kerry filed an FEC complaint alleging that a group of Vietnam veterans who have attacked his military were an illegal front group for the Bush campaign. Meanwhile an editor at the Chicago Tribune who served with Kerry 33 years ago came public to defend Kerry’s record in Vietnam. And Former Republican Senator Bob Dole joined in the fray as well. He called on Kerry to apologize for once testifying that atrocities were committed in Vietnam and he accused Kerry of receiving an early exit from combat for suffering “superficial wounds.”
Meanwhile Palestinian leaders are accusing the Bush administration of destroying hopes for peace in the Middle East by giving its covert support to Israel’s expansion of settlements in the West Bank. This according to a report in the Guardian of London. U.S. officials are privately admitting they have abandoned their demands that Israel freeze settlement activity, and have given Jerusalem tacit permission to build thousands of new homes on the disputed land. Israeli political activist Jeff Halper told the Guardian: “Effectively a new road map has been drawn between the US and Israel which the United Nations, the European Union and Russia do not agree with.”
Meanwhile In Gaza City, more than 4,000 Palestinians rallied on Sunday to show support for the thousands of Palestinian prisoners who are staging a hunger strike in Israeli jails.
The Sudanese government and rebel forces are meeting today in Nigeria to discuss brokering an accord in the western Darfur region. On Saturday, the Sudanese government signed an agreement with the United Nations migration agency to ensure that the estimated 1.4 million people driven from their villages by the Janjaweed militia can return home if they wish.
And the AFL-CIO and the Kerry-Edwards campaign called on the Bush administration over the weekend to scrap new overtime regulations that go into effect today. The rule changes could strip up to 6 million workers of overtime benefits.