U.S. Attacks Shiite Militia in Karbala
The rebel fighters belong to the Mahdi Army, a militia loyal to a radical young Shiite cleric, Moqtada Sadr, who has been inciting resistance to the U.S. occupation from strongholds in the Shiite holy cities of Najaf and Karbala. U.S. authorities contend that many residents of the cities oppose Sadr and want U.S. forces to put down his militia.
Kimmitt said the four arrests in the Berg case were carried out by U.S. forces on the basis of "Iraqi tips." He said of the two persons still in custody: "We're questioning them. We may find out that they have no association with the murder, but we will continue to question them for some period of time, until we're convinced they're innocent." He said he had no other information on the suspects.
"We have some intelligence that would suggest they had knowledge, perhaps some culpability, but we're not going to know until we've actually finished the questioning," Kimmitt said.
Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-Calif.), the chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, said he called today's hearing to focus on the conduct of the war in Iraq, which has been largely overshadowed by a scandal over the mistreatment of Iraqi prisoners by U.S. military police at the Abu Ghraib jail west of Baghdad.
"While the media has been absorbed with the misdeeds of a few MPs, our soldiers turned back an uprising by Moqtada al-Sadr and his Iranian-supported Mahdi brigade," Hunter said in an opening statement. "He and his militia are now cornered and have retreated into holy sites in Najaf, proving to Iraqis and the world that he has no respect for Islam or Iraqi's future as a nation."
Myers told the committee that he does not expect an Iraqi interim government, scheduled to assume political power June 30 from the Coalition Provisional Authority, to ask U.S. forces to leave the country. Secretary of State Colin L. Powell has said that if asked to depart by the interim government, the United States would comply.
"Iraqis understand that security has to be a partnership for some time," Myers said. "I think we are going to be wanted. I think we are going to be asked to stay." He said the worst fear of many Iraqis is that U.S. forces would leave, plunging the country "into anarchy and chaos."
While violence in Iraq may escalate and "many more" people are likely to be killed, Myers said he was optimistic about the U.S. mission there.
"I don't think we're on the brink of failure," he said in response to a question. "I think we're on the brink of success."
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