Iraqi police secure shrine area in Najaf. Heeding the embattled Muqtada al-Sadr's call to join the "peaceful masses", remnants of the so-called Mahdi Army are leaving the Najaf shrine according to news reports. This came as a result of negotiations between Sadr and Ayatollah Sistani, Iraq's leading Shi'a cleric. "Sadr accepted the peace proposal in a face-to-face meeting Thursday night with the 75-year-old grand ayatollah. The interim Iraqi government also agreed to the deal, and U.S. commanders ordered their troops to cease fire in Najaf." But according to the latest bulletin from Debka, "Under 5-point plan negotiated by Ayatollah Sistani with radical rebel Sadr overnight, rebel stronghold towns of Najef and Kufa declared weapons-free, foreign troops leave, handing security to Iraqi police, compensation paid for damage of three-week conflict.... US forces who fought rebellion withdrew to edge of city. Not all militiamen hand in weapons. Sadr walks free under Allawi government amnesty." For a very informative background on Shi'a Islam, read Ali's April 10 post, "The Myth and the Reality". (IHT, ITM, Debka)
Russian air disaster called terrorism. Not that it was ever in much doubt, but the twin crashes, within 20 minutes of one another, of two Russian airliners are being considered the result of terrorism. The crashes killed 90 people. Russian officials say traces of explosives have been found on at least one of the wrecked planes, according to this report on the Russian plane disaster. According to the Debka report, 'al Qaeda has finally come forward with a claim of responsibility, published by the Islamic Minbar website associated with the Islamist organization.' A denial by moderate Chechen rebels begs the question of whether Chechen extremists were involved; some analysts consider it likely that the hijackers came from outside of Russia. Russian newspapers have already referred to the event as "Russia's September 11", inviting speculation that the planes might have been intended to target high-level officials. It is noteworthy that the event comes less than a week before both the Chechen presedential election (scheduled for tomorrow, Saturday) and the Republican National Convention.
Sudan: Deadline? What deadline? In the latest chapter in the unfolding tragedy in Sudan, Jane has some thoughts on the importance of UN-imposed deadlines.
Al-Qaeda/Hezbollah/Ba'ath link? This piece by FDD's Cliff May on Munah al-Abdullah suggests that the capture of an inter-organizational terror liaison may provide proof of collaboration between various fascist regimes.
Remarks. Events in Russia encourage questions as to whether islamo-fascist elements are turning their attention toward West/Central Asia. An article on Uzbekistan by Andrew Apostolou sheds some light on the challenges facing that region.