At least 2,000 Shiites protest cleric's arrest

09 2003

At least 2,000 Shiites protest cleric's arrest

Rumsfeld calls new Iraq Stabilization group 'a one-pager'

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BAGHDAD, Iraq -- More than 2,000 Shiite Muslims continued their protest, marching to the U.S.-led administration headquarters Wednesday where they demanded the release of a Shiite cleric who was arrested the day before for storing weapons.

Imam Mu'ayyad Al Khazraji and his assistant, Abdel Jalil Wakiya, also known as Dr. Jalil, were arrested Monday for having assault rifles, grenades and ammunition at a holy site, said a spokesman with the Army's 82nd Airborne Division.

Iraqi police found four AK-47s, four grenades, ammunition and gas masks, according to coalition authorities. The clerics also were arrested for calling on Iraqis to oppose the U.S.-led occupation, Reuters reported.

Coalition officials invited protesters into its complex for talks aimed at easing the tension. The Shiite protesters lay in the road, shouted slogans and refused to move.

Al Khazraji is being held on charges of possible murder, conspiracy to commit murder, kidnapping, false imprisonment, harboring terrorists, soliciting weapons for delivery to terrorists and organizing illegal demonstrations, authorities said. An investigation is pending.

An attorney for the 82nd told CNN that witnesses support the counts.

Worshippers at the mosque told CNN that after the imam was arrested Monday night, they saw U.S. soldiers enter the mosque to "plant" bombs, grenades and pistols. They then photographed the cache, the witnesses said.

There was no immediate response from the Army or Iraqi police on the allegations, but the U.S. military said all the arrests were made outside the mosque, and that no U.S. soldiers went inside.

Rumsfeld dismisses oversight significance

In Colorado Springs, Colorado, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said a decision to transfer the day-to-day oversight of Iraq's reconstruction to the White House from the Pentagon is no reflection on his leadership or the progress made in rebuilding and pacifying Iraq.

The White House said Monday it is creating an Iraq Stabilization Group to be headed by National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice. The group would be responsible for handling the day-to-day administration of Iraq, a task previously handled by the Pentagon.

The overhaul is the outcome of numerous discussions among Rice, Vice President Dick Cheney, Secretary of State Colin Powell, Rumsfeld and President Bush on the reorganization efforts inside Iraq, a White House official said.

Rumsfeld appeared to admit he was out of the loop about the creation of the oversight group, saying he was told that the Pentagon received a memo about it from the National Security Council (NSC) on Friday, but that he did not read it until Tuesday.

"I don't remember it being discussed," Rumsfeld said Tuesday. He was in Colorado Springs for an informal meeting of NATO defense ministers Wednesday.

Source by CNN

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