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Saturday, September 04, 2004

IRAQ: al Sadr linked to mass killings

by Rowan Scarborough, in the Washington Times

A U.S. military intelligence report says that followers of radical Shi'ite cleric Sheik Muqtada al-Sadr imprisoned, killed and mutilated Iraqis who opposed his insurrection. American intelligence officers are now investigating in the town of Najaf, the site of Sheik al-Sadr's bloody standoff with coalition forces.

A U.S. military officer told The Washington Times that the command recently acquired photos of 15 to 20 mutilated bodies that appear to be Iraqis lying in a courtyard. A written U.S. intelligence report, a copy of which was obtained by The Washington Times, puts the body count much higher, based on an Iraqi informant, some of whose information was confirmed by local police.

The report said that after last week's truce, Iraqi forces moved into buildings held by the radical cleric's Mahdi's Army militia and found the bodies. "Inside the court building, Iraqi police found approximately 200 mutilated bodies taken by the Moqtada militia for speaking out against Moqtada al Sadr," said the intelligence report sent to the Pentagon and stamped "secret."

"Some of the prisoners had eyes and ears drilled out and others had their limbs and heads cut off. Some males had genitals cut off and shoved in their mouths. There was evidence of rape to men, women and children,"

according to the report.

The senior officer, who asked to remain anonymous, said that the number of bodies found is much less than 200. The source said that while it appears certain that the bodies exist, the circumstances of when and where the people were killed, and by whom, remained unknown yesterday.

"We don't have a complete picture of where they came from," the officer said. "We're trying to uncover what really happened before we are able to release information."