Sadr Deputy Is Killed in U.S.-Led Raid in Iraq

A U.S.-backed raid Wednesday resulted in the death of Sahib al-Amiri, a top deputy to Moqtada al-Sadr, the powerful anti-American Shiite cleric who controls one of Iraq's most powerful militias. U.S. military officials say Amiri had been a supplier of explosives that were used against US and Iraqi forces.

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Last week, the U.S. military handed security control of Iraq's an-Najaf Province to the Iraqi army and police. Now, Iraqi leader in Najaf say the Americans have violated the agreement by leading a raid that ended in the killing of a top aide to the Shiite cleric, Moqtada al-Sadr.

NPR's Corey Flintoff reports from Baghdad.

COREY FLINTOFF: Thousands of angry protesters followed the coffin of Sahib al-Amiri during his funeral in the Shiite holy city of Najaf. Amari was killed early yesterday, but U.S. and Iraqi officials offered widely different versions of the raid and the man who was targeted.

Major General WILLIAM CALDWELL (U.S. Army) He has allegedly provided, recently, several IDs his self, for an attack that was directed and carried out against Iraqi and coalition forces in the Najaf area.

FLINTOFF: Major General William Caldwell, the U.S. military spokesman in Baghdad, says U.S. forces had information implicating Amari as the leader of a terrorist cell that produced IEDs - roadside bombs.

Rassam al-Marwani, a spokesman for Moqtada al-Sadr's political movement, says Amari was an aide to Sadr who ran a religious foundation for orphans and the poor. He says Amari was never involved in violence of any kind. But General Caldwell says that when Amari was cornered on the roof of his house, he tried to shoot his way out and was killed by an American military advisor.

Major General CALDWELL: When the person in question turned around with a weapon and was raising it towards the Iraqi soldier, he took measures to protect that Iraqi soldier and shot the person they were attempting to detain.

FLINTOFF: Amari's son said his father had no weapon, and was killed in cold blood. General Caldwell says Americans didn't take the lead in the raid on Amari's home.

Major General CALDWELL: It was an Iraqi-led planned operation consistent with the fact that Najaf now has been passed to provincial Iraqi control and that the U.S. forces don't operate there independently.

FLINTOFF: A spokesman for the Iraqi army and police in Najaf said his office was given no information about the raid, and insisted that it was American advisors who led it. Whichever account is true, it's a problem for the U.S military, which has touted the growing capacity of the Iraqi security forces and offered the handover of security responsibility in Najaf as proof that the U.S. has faith in the army and police. It also raises tensions with al-Sadr, whose Mahdi army has twice fought American troops since the U.S. invasion.

Corey Flintoff, NPR News, Baghdad.

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