London, Asharq Al-Awsat- Salam al-Maliki, a leading figure in the Al-Sadr’s trend, led by Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, and former transportation minister, has denied that Al-Sadr has anything to do with the murder of Shiite cleric Abdul-Majid Al-Khoei, former chief of the Imam al-Khoei Foundation in London, who was assassinated in al-Najaf in April 2003.
In reply to a remark made during an Asharq Al-Awsat interview with Ahmad Chalabi, leader of the National Congress, Al-Maliki said: “I totally rule out that Al-Sadr has anything to do with the murder of Abdul-Majid al-Khoei in al-Najaf.” He pointed out that “the ramifications surrounding the murder of Al-Khoei are not clear because they coincided with the beginning of the collapse of Saddam Hussein’s regime and the entry of the US forces in Iraq. During that time, lawlessness and insecurity prevailed in the country.”
In a telephone statement from his town of Basra to Asharq Al-Awsat, Al-Maliki said: “I rule out the possibility that Al-Sadr had any connection to the murder of Al-Khoei. What I know is that the people meant by the incident Haydaral-Ruyfay’i al-Klidar, official in charge of the Imam Ali’s shrine in Al-Najaf, and that Al-Khoei was not targeted in the incident.”
Al-Maliki accused “foreign parties, neighboring countries, enemies of the Shiaa sect, and Zionist forces of involvement in that case, which led to the death of Al-Khoei, al-Rufay’i and Mahir al-Yasiri to foment sedition between the Shiite religious authorities and members of the Al-Ja’fari faith, and to harm the Shiaa sect.”
Al-Maliki added that Al-Khoei and Al-Sadr are “sons of major Shiite religious authorities and that no such thing has ever happened in the history of the Shiite religious authorities no matter what the differences among them. Moreover, historically, there have been no differences between the families of Al-Sadr and Al-Khoei. In fact, the Shiite religious authority, Ayatollah Muhammad Sadiq al-Sadr (the father of Muqtada al-Sadr) used to harbor utmost reverence to and appreciation of Ayatollah Abu al-Qasim al-Khoei, who was a major Shiite religious authority and Al-Sadr was his pupil. Al-Sadr has often spoken of his mentor Al-Khoei with great admiration.”
Commenting on the situation in Basra, Al-Maliki, who hails from Basra, stressed that “the security situation in the city, Iraq’s second largest, is calm after the withdrawal of the British forces from the city to their bases.” He pointed out that “the British forces defended only themselves, broke the laws, arrested people and raided their homes, creating an abnormal security situation in the city.” He added:” Though more than two weeks have passed since the British forces have withdrawn from Basra, there have been no security or military problems except for some ordinary crimes, such as burglaries and robberies, which are ordinary crimes and can be minimized when effective security commands and strong security forces are in place to deter and prevent crime.” He said: “When we have addressed the security aspects, we can devote our time to working out political solutions.”
Al-Maliki further said: “We are currently working to establish a political council consisting of leaders of the political parties, religious forces and tribal chieftains to solve the problems in Basra.” He noted that “Basra has large oil revenue and is the only Iraqi seaport on the Gulf. The majority of the 3million population of Basra belongs to an educated class that has a high national consciousness free of religious or ethnic discrimination.” He added: “There are ten effective political parties in Basra, eight of which are religious, along with the Iraqi Communist Party and the National Accord Movement.”
Al-Maliki complained about “the current crisis between the Basra Governorate Council and Governor Muhammad al-Wa’ili, who belongs to the Virtue [Al-Fadilah] Party. The Basra Governorate Council has relieved Al-Wa’ili of his post and Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki has ratified this decision, but Al-Wa’ili still acts as governor powers that are limited by the Governorate Council. This situation has created problems between the governorate and the governor.” He stressed “we are exerting efforts to contain the problems through contacts with the Virtue Party, Ayatollah sheikh Muhammad al-Yaqubi, the Governorate Council, and with the governor himself.”