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U.S.-Led Coalition: Shi'ite Leader Could Be Arrested

5 April 2004 -- The U.S.-led coalition in Iraq has disclosed that a warrant has been issued for the arrest of Muqtada al-Sadr, the Shi'ite Muslim cleric whose followers staged bloody protests in several Iraqi cities yesterday. Mustafa al-Ya'qubi

Coalition spokesman Dan Senor said the warrant was issued in connection with the murder of a rival cleric last year.

"[An Iraqi] judge has issued an arrest warrant for Muqtada al-Sadr, and that is based on evidence that connects Muqtada al-Sadr to the brutal murder of Mr. al-Khoei, a murder in which Mr. al-Khoei was repeatedly stabbed and shot to death in front of one of the world's holiest shrines. And I think the message to all individuals that were involved in that murder is that the Iraqi people want elections, not mob rule to determine who will govern Iraq."

Senor said the warrant had been issued several months ago. Asked by journalists why coalition forces had not served the warrant on al-Sadr, Senor said the decision on timing was left to the Iraqi judge in the murder case.

An aide to al-Sadr, Mustafa al-Ya'qubi, is already in custody charged with complicity in the same murder. Clashes between U.S-led coalition forces and al-Sadr supporters continued today.

In Baghdad, militiamen exchanged fire with at least one U.S. helicopter gunship. Iraq's top U.S. civilian administrator, L. Paul Bremer, today called al-Sadr "an outlaw" and said he won't tolerate his actions.

In the United States, President George W. Bush said today that despite the volence he remains committed to the 30 June deadline for transferring power in Iraq.

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