First Published: 2003-12-09

Protests in Sadr City over sheikh death

Hundreds of angry Shiites protest in Baghdad's Sadr City over death of sheikh crushed under US tank.


Middle East Online

The incident sparked Shiites' anger in Sadr City

BAGHDAD - Hundreds of angry Shiite Muslims protested in the Iraqi capital on Tuesday over the death of a sheikh crushed under a US tank.

All the demonstrators, who rallied outside a central Baghdad hotel used by foreign correspondents, carried photos of Sheikh Abdul Razzak al-Lami and of his flattened car.

"Friday evening my brother stopped when he ran out of petrol. He was standing next to the vehicle waiting for someone to bring a can of petrol when an American tank arrived," said his brother Jassem al-Lami.

"The tank crushed the car and him. He died immediately. The US soldiers in the tank did not even stop to see what happened. They just left him on the ground."

The sheikh ran Al-Rahman mosque in Sadr City, a poor Baghdad district which is home to some two million Shiites, the majority community in Iraq.

"We decided to protest today to condemn what happened and to ask US forces to keep out of our safe and holy city," Lami said. "What are tanks doing in the narrow streets in Sadr City?"

Another sheikh, Hassan al-Lami, said: "We have formed a delegation and today we are going to meet with Coalition Provisional Authority officials to tell them what happened and to ask for the soldier who did this to be put on trial.

"He was a very respected and influential man," he said of the late sheikh, "and everyone here is angry about what happened. The blood of Shiites can not be shed cheaply, the Americans have to understand that."

The US army said had a tank had been involved in a traffic accident that resulted "in an accidental death" and an inquiry was underway.

Meanwhile in the town of Khalidiya, some 300 demonstrators demanded US forces halt "provocations", referring to inner city patrols and alleged indiscriminate shooting.

They also demanded the release of 113 prisoners arrested in the town by US forces, said Ahmad Ismael, an ulema, or doctor of theology.

Youths wearing bandannas marked "There is only one God and Mohammad is his Prophet" marched through Khalidiya, 80 kilometres (50 miles) northwest of the capital, and carried banners calling for a local council appointed by the US authorities to be replaced.

Iraqi police prevented the demonstrators from reaching a nearby US base but a five-man delegation handed over the list of demands to soldiers.


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