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May 26, 2004

ANOTHER BAD DAY for the increasingly irrelevant Sadr. First this:

US troops captured a key lieutenant of Iraqi rebel cleric Muqtada al-Sadr during overnight clashes in Najaf that killed 24 people and wounded nearly 50.

Riyadh al-Nouri, al-Sadrís brother-in-law, offered no resistance when American troops raided his home during a series of clashes in the Shiite holy city, according to Azhar al-Kinani, a staffer in al-Sadrís office in Najaf.

The capture of al-Nouri would be a major blow to al-Sadrís al-Mahdi Army, which has been battling coalition forces since early April.

Then there's this:

It was unclear which side was responsible for causing the minor damage to the Imam Ali mosque, but a high-ranking cleric accused Sadrís militia of deliberately attacking the revered shrine.

Ayatollah Mohammed Baqr al-Mehri, the Kuwaiti representative of Iraqís most powerful Shiite cleric, Ayatollah Ali al-Husseini al-Sistani, said the Sadr militia fired a mortar shell at the dome of the shrine but missed it and hit a wall instead.

Ayatollah Mehri called the attack "a cowardly act" and said Sadr loyalists should not use the shrine for storing their weapons and as a sanctuary.

"We want to tell the world, and America, that Muqtada al-Sadr is not one of us, and this is a conspiracy against Shiites so that we donít get any [political] rights," Ayatollah Mehri said, referring to Shiite demands for greater political representation in the new Iraq. . . .

Ayatollah Mehri said the Sadr militia was "trying to agitate world opinion against the coalition" by claiming that coalition forces attacked the shrine. He said the militia include Saddam loyalists.

While the pundits blather, the Army seems to be doing a pretty good job of isolating him and wearing him down.

UPDATE: Some interesting stuff on Iraqi sentiments from the BBC Arabic site translated and summarized by Omar here.