Iraqi officials say unidentified gunmen have shot and killed a senior aide to radical Shi'ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr in the southern holy city of Najaf (Friday).
Police and the director of the Sadr movement's office in Najaf confirmed the killing. The officials say Riyadh al-Nouri was driving home from Friday prayers when he was shot. Authorities in Najaf have imposed a curfew. Sadr's spokesman in Najaf (Salah al-Obeidi) says Sadr calls on his supporters to remain calm.
The aide also quoted Sadr as blaming "occupying forces" and those working with them for the killing. U.S. officials have not responded to the allegation, but in Washington, U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates told reporters he doubts Sadr would be subject to arrest by U.S. forces. Gates said the Shi'ite cleric is a significant political figure and that the United States wants him to work within the Iraqi political process.