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4/7/03 - SADDAM’S FORCES FIRE FROM MOSQUE - 2003-04-07

For more than one-hundred million Shiite Muslims around the world, the gold-domed Ali Mosque in Najaf [nah-JAHF], Iraq, is a holy shrine. It is the burial site of Imam Ali Ibn Abu Talib, son-in-law of the prophet Mohammed, and the Shiites’ most revered leader.

But for the Saddam Hussein regime, Ali’s burial site is simply another place to position gunmen to fire at forces of the U.S.-led coalition. As the coalition forces liberated Najaf on April 2nd, Saddam Hussein’s thugs fired on them from the mosque. Coalition forces did not fire back, said U.S. Army General Vincent Brooks:

“Coalition forces were disciplined, discriminated, and chose not to return fire against this mosque and keep it protected. The regime’s use of the Ali Mosque for military purposes to trigger a coalition response is just the latest detestable example of the regime’s strategy of deliberately putting sacred sites in danger.”

The mosque has no military value -- but great sacred value -- and should have been protected by the Iraqi regime. Instead, said General Brooks, it is being protected by coalition forces:

“We certainly want to keep it as protected as possible. . .something we know to be sacred, and something that the people of that town obviously know to be sacred.”

As in other places in Iraq, the coalition forces were warmly welcomed by the people of Najaf. As U.S. troops move ever closer to Baghdad, more and more Iraqis are realizing that their liberation from the Saddam Hussein tyranny is at hand.

The Iraqi people, said President George W. Bush, “deserve better than a life spent bowing before a dictator. [They] deserve to stand on their feet as free men and women, the citizens of a free country.”