The government issued an arrest warrant late Thursday for Sheik Harith al-Dhari, one of Iraq's most prominent Sunni Arab clerics, on charges of inciting terrorism and violence, officials said.
Mr. Dhari, head of the influential Muslim Scholars Association, has been an outspoken critic of the foreign military presence in Iraq and has said he approves of the armed resistance in the absence of a timetable for the withdrawal of American troops. This stance has won him support among hard-line Sunni Arabs and respect among the rebels, and news of the arrest warrant raised concerns among many Iraqis that it could further inspire the insurgency.
Interior Minister Jawad al-Bolani announced the warrant on state-run television, saying, "The government's policy is that anyone who tries to spread division and strife between the Iraqi people will be chased by our security agencies."
Mr. Dhari regularly travels throughout the Middle East and could not be reached for comment on Thursday. Mohammed Bashar al-Faidi, a spokesman for the Muslim Scholars Association, condemned the warrant on Al Jazeera television. "I don't know how to describe it, but it represents the bankruptcy of the sectarian government following one scandal after the other," he said.
Rampant sectarian violence and growing acrimony between political leaders have pushed Iraq to the brink of all-out civil war.
On Thursday, President Jalal Talabani called for an emergency meeting of Iraq's political leaders, portraying it as an effort to stave off the complete collapse of the government, an official in the presidency said Thursday.
The complete collapse? The bankruptcy of the sectarian government? Where's the puppet? We'll get to that in a moment. The above is from Kirk Semple's "Iraq Issues Arrest Warrant for Sunni Cleric" in this morning's New York Times.
Already this morning the US military announced: "A Task Force Lightning Soldier attached to 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, was killed by small arms fire Thursday during combat operations in Diyala province."
Yesterday's snapshot noted a report of a mass kidnapping. Reuters pegged the kidnapping in Baghdad ("Residents in west Baghdad said they had seen men in uniform stopping minibuses and taking passengers away. The police source said it appeared up to six buses were involved.").
JIM NOTE: Per C.I. this is added: These are two different kidnappings. The Baghdad kidnapping did take place in Baghdad.
Semple notes that the location was Nasariya. Today Reuters notes: "The convoy was attacked on Thursday between the towns of Safwan and Zubayr after crossing the border from Kuwait on its way to the city of Nassiriya."
On the kidnapping, the BBC reports:
Four Americans and an Austrian have been kidnapped from a convoy of civilians in southern Iraq, US and Iraqi sources have said.
The convoy of 19 vehicles, operated by a Kuwait-based security service, was attacked on Thursday.
Unconfirmed reports said the incident took place at a bogus checkpoint. Nine other civilians were released.
And where's the puppet? Apparently fancy himself as both a Juan and an Evita, he's on the road. Sabrina Tavernise and Sebnem Arsu's "Turkey Offers Iraqi Leader Help in Training Security Forces" reports:
Turkey on Thursday offered to provide military training for Iraqi security forces, in what appeared to be an effort to exert influence over an increasingly weak Iraqi state.
The offer was made during a visit to Turkey by Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki of Iraq, his first since he took office in the spring. As the Iraqi government has increasingly come unraveled, officials from the United States are considering options to try to avert an all-out civil war.
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