BAGHDAD, Iraq — Coalition officials in Iraq on Sunday warned that a “dangerous situation is developing in Najaf,” the holy Shiite Muslim city controlled by wanted radical cleric Muqtada al-Sadr.
Iraqis in Najaf are stockpiling weapons in mosques, shrines and in schools, Coalition Provisional Authority spokesman Dan Senor said, while U.S. forces remained deployed outside the city.
U.S. officials have said they want to capture or kill al-Sadr, who is wanted for questioning in the killing of a rival cleric. There have been ongoing talks to avert the threat of fighting between U.S. forces and al-Sadr’s militia, the Mehdi Army.
“This explosive situation threatens the local population there that is already in a very dangerous situation,” Senor said.
Senor said the stockpiling reports came from top coalition civilian administrator Paul Bremer, who had heard it from concerned Iraqis in Najaf.
Brig. Gen. Mark Kimmitt, a U.S. Army spokesman, reiterated that al-Sadr is the target, not Najaf.
Fallujah deadline extended
In another troubled Iraqi city — Fallujah — U.S. authorities reported a lack of progress in peace talks, saying they are growing weary. Residents of the city have been ordered to turn in their heavy weapons.
U.S. Marines were deployed to Fallujah, which is west of Baghdad, in response to the killing and mutilation of four American contractors there on March 31.
Talks have resulted in more agreements Saturday night between coalition representatives and local officials in Fallujah, Kimmitt said Sunday.
A deadline for residents to hand over heavy weapons was extended to April 27, Kimmitt announced.
Coalition representatives to the talks also agreed to begin joint patrols inside Fallujah on April 27, Kimmitt said. The joint patrols will made up of Iraqi Defense Corps, Iraqi Police Service and coalition forces, he said.