February 15, 2007 in Nation/World

Amid raids, al-Sadr’s whereabouts still unknown

From Wire Reports The Spokesman-Review

Related news

GOP lawmakers oppose troop plan

WASHINGTON – A group of Republican lawmakers broke ranks with the White House on Wednesday and embraced a resolution opposing more U.S. troops in Iraq.

Bush questioned the message that House approval of the nonbinding resolution would send, saying at a news conference: “People are watching what happens here in America. The enemy listens to what’s happening. The Iraqi people listen to the words. … They’re wondering about our commitment to this cause.”

Undaunted, 11 GOP lawmakers took to the House floor to express their support for a Democratic-sponsored resolution opposing Bush’s decision to add 21,500 troops to the roughly 135,000 already in Iraq.

“The Iraqis don’t want us there,” said Rep. Fred Upton, R-Mich. “We’re viewed as part of the problem, not the solution.”

The House is scheduled to vote Friday on the resolution, which is likely to pass.

Los Angeles Times

BAGHDAD, Iraq – With a series of new checkpoints and coordinated raids across the city, Baghdad’s eagerly awaited security plan finally kicked off Wednesday as a new mystery consumed the attention of Iraqis: Where is Muqtada al-Sadr?

A day after U.S. officials in Washington anonymously told news media that the anti-American cleric who heads the country’s biggest militia has fled to Iran, al-Sadr officials and spokesmen lined up to deny the claim, insisting that al-Sadr is still in Iraq and would soon make a public appearance to prove the U.S. wrong.

Al-Sadr, who told a reporter in January that he feared for his life, did not make his whereabouts known.

“This news is false,” said Abdul Razzaq al-Nidawi, a senior al-Sadr spokesman reached by telephone in the province of Diwaniya. “Sayyed Muqtada al-Sadr is still in Najaf, and he did not and will not leave the city.”

At a news briefing in Baghdad’s fortified Green Zone, military spokesman Maj. Gen. William Caldwell confirmed that the U.S. has information that al-Sadr is in Iran, but he refused to speculate as to why he was there or when he left his hometown of Najaf, the holy Shiite city.

As the security effort finally got under way Wednesday, more than a month after it was promised, U.S. forces launched a series of 21 coordinated raids across the city, including Sunni districts of western Baghdad and Shiite ones on the eastern side of the river.

Elsewhere in Baghdad, Iraqi soldiers and police set up new checkpoints, snarling traffic and forcing people to walk across bridges jammed with vehicles.

The U.S. military said 14 suspects were detained and four weapons caches discovered during the day’s operation.

Outside the capital, fighting continued. The military said four U.S. soldiers were killed Wednesday in an explosion in Diyala province, among six new U.S. deaths announced.

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