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Posted: Wednesday, May 26th 2004 at 1:25pm

U.S. Troops Capture Key Iraqi Lieutenant

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BAGHDAD - U.S. troops captured a key lieutenant of radical Shiite leader Muqtada al-Sadr during overnight clashes in Najaf that killed 24 people and wounded nearly 50, hospital and militia officials said.

Riyadh al-Nouri, al-Sadr's brother-in-law, offered no resistance when American troops raided his home during a series of clashes in this Shiite holy city, according to Azhar al-Kinani, a staffer in al-Sadr's office in Najaf.

The capture of al-Nouri would be a major blow to al-Sadr's al-Mahdi Army, which has been battling coalition forces since early April. Al-Sadr launched his uprising in response to a crackdown by coalition authorities who announced an arrest warrant against him in the April 2003 assassination of a moderate cleric in Najaf.

Brig. Gen. Mark Kimmitt, coalition deputy chief of operations, said al-Nouri was also sought in the murder of the cleric, Abdul Majid al-Khoei, and would be handed over to Iraqi authorities for prosecution.

In Baghdad, diplomatic sources confirmed reports published Wednesday that Dr. Hussain al-Shahristani, a science adviser to the Iraqi government who spent years in Abu Ghraib prison, was among several people under consideration for the job of prime minister of an interim government to take power June 30. The sources, speaking on condition of anonymity, emphasized that no decision had been made and other candidates were under consideration.

Before the Iraq war, al-Shahristani was among the Iraqi exiles who had insisted that Saddam Hussein maintained weapons of mass destruction. In February 2003, he told CBS' "60 Minutes" that such weapons may have been hidden in tunnels for a Baghdad subway that never opened.

Despite his concerns about mass destruction weapons, al-Shahristani said in London in 2002 that he was "extremely concerned of the consequences" of an invasion of Iraq on the people Iraqi people.
Associated Categories: National News

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