Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Iraq on the Brink; . Armed Rebels Seize Our Governor's Office in Basra .More US Troops Killed as Country Nears State of Civil War .Coalition Faces Revolt on Two Fronts

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Iraq on the Brink; . Armed Rebels Seize Our Governor's Office in Basra .More US Troops Killed as Country Nears State of Civil War .Coalition Faces Revolt on Two Fronts

Article excerpt

Byline: HUGH DOUGHERTY

IRAQ teetered on the brink of anarchy today as a wave of violence spread throughout the country.

Coalition forces now find themselves embattled on two fronts - by minority Sunni Muslims and by the majority Shi'ite population, urged on by a radical cleric branded an outlaw today by the coalition authority.

Shia supporters of Moqtada al-Sadr have now launched a series of attacks on the US-led coalition - including protests in Amarah in which British troops came under fire, and a sit-in by armed men at the governor's headquarters in Britishcontrolled Basra.

But the worst clashes today came in Baghdad, where Apache helicopter gunships fired at militant supporters of the cleric rioting in the north-west suburb of Shuala.

They came after the death toll from a weekend of bloodshed continued to rise, with some estimates putting it as high as 55 after clashes in Najaf, Nasiriyah and Fallujah as well as Baghdad. No British troops were injured in Amarah.

Al-Sadr, who has mobilised thousands of Shia for the first time, now represents the biggest single challenge to the shaky authority of US administrator Paul Bremer.

In a bid to avert all-out civil war, Mr Bremer held crisis talks today with the Iraqi ministers who are supposed to take over running the country at the end of June.

He told them the young Shi'ite cleric was an outlaw trying to usurp legitimate authority, adding: "We will not tolerate this. We will reassert the law and order which the Iraqi people expect."

But Mr Bremer is seen in some quarters as largely to blame for the lurch into anarchy. It was his decision to close down Al-Sadr's newspaper-which prompted the call from the cleric - whose father was an outspoken critic of Saddam Hussein - to bring "terror" to the US-led coalition.

Al-Sadr then called on followers to "do what you see fit in your provinces". …

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