In Iraq, Shiite cleric Moktada al-Sadr has called off his two-month-old truce with the US-backed forces and called for a holy war against the US and other coalition troops. In a statement to followers Sadr said, “Fight the blasphemous, fight the Americans.” A spokesperson of Sadr told the Washington Post, “This is a revolution against the occupation force until we get independence and democracy.” Sadr’s call for an uprising marks the biggest challenge yet to the new unelected Iraqi government. The U.S. has responded by bombing portions of Sadr City in Baghad and the holy city of Najaf. Sadr’s forces have been fighting US and coalition troops in Najaf, Basra, Nasiriyah and Baghdad. Agence France Press reports at least 50 people have been killed and another 170 wounded in the fighting. Meanwhile Iraq’s leading Shiite cleric, Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani, has left the country to seek medical treatment in London.
In Albany New York, the Justice Department announced the arrest of two leaders of a storefront mosque on charges of conspiracy to launder money and concealing material support for terrorism.
The men were caught in a government sting operation where they allegedly agreed to launder money that they were told would pay for a shoulder-fired missile to be used to assassinate Pakistan’s ambassador in New York.
The government does not allege the men ever met anyone with actual terrorist ties — only a government informant acting as a terrorist. The informant is a convicted felon who in return for his role in the sting is to get a reduced prison sentence on document fraud charges.
US Attorney James Comey said the men had no connection to any actual terror plot. He said “the terrorist plot … is one that the government’s agent, the cooperating witness, represented to be underway. It was not real. It was represented.”
Officially the government has not tied the men to any organized terror group, but an unnamed Bush administration claimed one of the men had ties to the Iraqi-based Ansar al Islam. No evidence backing up this claim has been presented.
The Bush administration is claiming that the British have detained a leading Al Qaeda operative who may have been directing the surveillance of financial institutions on the East coast before the Sept. 11 attacks.
The Knight Ridder news agency is reporting that Saudi Crown Prince Abdullah gave $127,000 in jewelry and other presents to the Bush family and top presidential aides last year including a diamond and sapphire jewelry set to Laura Bush. According to Knight Ridder, no foreign leader gave the Bush family more gifts last year.
President Bush yesterday approved an additional $25 billion in emergency funds to pay for operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. The Bush administration had previously said it would not need more money for the two wars until the new fiscal year begins October 1. Last month a Congressional report found the Bush administration had underestimated this year’s cost of the Iraq and Afghanistan operations by $12 billion.
Bush also held a public ceremony to sign a $417 billion military bill. One of Bush’s comments took many reporters by surprise.
He said “This bill meets our commitment to America’s Armed Forces by preparing them to meet the threats of tomorrow. Our enemies are innovative and resourceful, and so are we. They never stop thinking about new ways to harm our country and our people, and neither do we.”
That was President Bush yesterday at a public ceremony where he signed a $417 billion military bill.
Republican Senator John McCain lashed out at a new ad attacking Senator John Kerry’s military service. The ad was taken out by a group called Swift Boat Veterans For Truth and features Vietnam veterans who allege Kerry fabricated his war record. McCain said “I deplore this kind of politics. I think the ad is dishonest and dishonorable.... None of these individuals served on the boat [Kerry] commanded. Many of his crew have testified to his courage under fire.” McCain, who was publicly endorsed President Bush, called on the White House to condemn the ad.
The state of Alabama last night executed James Hubbard. He was 74 years old and was suffering from colon and prostate cancer. He was the oldest person ever executed in Alabama and the oldest person executed in the country in over 60 years.
And 59 years ago today the US military dropped a 20 kiloton atomic bomb on Hiroshima. The bombing quickly killed over 140,000 people and marked the start of the nuclear arms race. About a quarter of a million people are believed to have died from effects of the bombing. Three days after Hiroshima, the U.S. dropped another atomic bomb on Nagasaki killing tens of thousands more. Today the mayor of Hiroshima condemned the United States for continuing to build nuclear weapons. He said “Ignoring the United Nations and its foundation of international law, the United States has resumed research to make nuclear weapons smaller and more usable.”