Iraqi police have imposed a curfew for the Shi'ite holy city of Najaf after a senior aide to Iraqi cleric Muqtada al-Sadr was gunned down today in the nearby city of Kufa as he drove away from the mosque after Friday prayers.
Riyadh al-Nouri managed the offices of Sadr's organization in Najaf, and was also Sadr's brother-in-law. The death was confirmed by a policeman and one of Mr. al-Nouri's employees, but both men spoke on condition of anonymity.
Iraqi security forces moved quickly to stem the inevitable tide of retaliation. A curfew was imposed, shops were closed, people were ordered off the streets and roadblocks were quickly erected.
Twas ever thus that conflict lurks just below the surface, and there is most certainly intrasectarian strife on the horizon. Remember that an aide to Sadr rival Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani was killed last summer, stabbed in his office.
The looming question is - will this be the spark that sets it off? When Sadr reemerged last May, he did so wearing a funeral shroud, not merely signifying his willingness to be martyred, but broadcasting the fact that he expects he will be killed. His followers have donned shrouds themselves, displaying solidarity and a willingness to die for their beliefs.