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1/10/04 - SANCTITY OF MOSQUE RESPECTED - 2004-01-12

On January 1st, Iraqi soldiers and U.S.-led coalition forces conducted a raid at the al-Tabul Mosque in southwestern Baghdad. The troops were acting on information from local Iraqis that remnants of Saddam Hussein’s Baathist regime were holed up inside the mosque. As U.S. Army Brigadier General Mark Kimmitt said, every effort was made to preserve the sanctity of the mosque during the raid:

“Because of the sensitivity of the religious monuments inside this country and the places of religious expression, we are very, very careful that we don’t go in indiscriminately or without good intelligence. The results of what we found inside definitely demonstrated that this mosque was being used for purposes other than free religious expression.”

Thirty-two people were detained following the raid and, General Kimmitt says, authorities also found a large cache of illegal weapons and explosives:

“Five sticks of high explosive PE-4, three packages of T-N-T, one case of blasting caps. . . .”

Other weapons found in the mosque included gunpowder, propellants, rifles, mortar tubes, ammunition rounds, and rocket-propelled and hand-made grenades.

Clearly the raid was necessary. But some Iraqis were angered by it. There were even allegations that troops tore pages from the mosque’s Koran, but there is no absolutely no evidence to support that. In fact, General Kimmitt said, coalition forces have been instructed to respect all religious sites:

“Despite the clear use of this mosque for criminal, terrorist, and anti-coalition activities, the greatest care was taken by coalition forces to uphold the sanctity of the mosque and to use the minimal amount of force necessary to conduct the operation.”

The coalition will continue to show respect for Iraq’s religious traditions. As President George W. Bush has said, “Our war is not against Islam, or against faith practiced by the Muslim people. Our war is a war against evil. This is clearly a case of good versus evil, and make no mistake about it -- good will prevail."