First Published: 2011-07-10

 

Iraq’s Sadr: I will not reactivate Mahdi Army

 

Anti-US Shiite cleric says his "Promised Day Brigade" militia will oppose US forces if they extended their deployment in Iraq.

 

Middle East Online

By Ammar Karim - BAGHDAD

Anti-US Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr has withdrawn a threat to reactivate his powerful Mahdi Army but said an elite unit would oppose American forces if they extended their deployment in Iraq.

In a statement posted on his website on Saturday, Sadr said his "Promised Day Brigade" militia would remain at the forefront of the opposition to American forces remaining in Iraq beyond a scheduled pullout at the end of 2011.

But Sadr, who is close to Iran, said he was "freezing the activities of the Mahdi Army," even if the Americans stayed.

"Because of (criminal acts) that were committed -- or could be committed (by people claiming to be members of the Mahdi Army), I decided to limit military action to the Promised Day Brigade," he said.

About 46,000 American forces remain in Iraq, down from a high of 170,000 after the 2003 US-led invasion that ousted leader Saddam Hussein.

All are scheduled to leave at the end of 2011, but Washington has said it is negotiating with Baghdad about the possibility of some forces remaining beyond then if requested.

Last April, Sadr had threatened to revive the Mahdi Army if American troops remained in Iraq beyond the deadline.

"If the Americans don't leave Iraq on time, we will increase the resistance and restart the activities of the Mahdi Army," Sadr had said in a fiery statement read by a spokesman to thousands of followers in Baghdad.

In his latest statement, he said he had hoped that "one day the Mahdi Army could be revived in a new fashion, but there is no hope until these criminals mend their ways," he said.

The Mahdi Army, which fought repeated battles against Iraqi and US-led coalition forces between 2004 and 2007, has been identified by the Pentagon as the main threat to stability in Iraq.

The Promised Day Brigade was created in November 2008 by Sadr to fight against US forces.

American military officials have blamed it, and two other breakaway Shiite groups, for the majority of attacks against American troops, accusing neighbouring Iran of backing the militias.

US forces suffered their deadliest month in three years last June, when 14 soldiers were killed in separate attacks, most of them by rockets fired at military bases.

Washington's top US military officer said Thursday that Iran is stepping up support for Shiite militants in Iraq, supplying them with more sophisticated weapons.

Admiral Mike Mullen said Iran had made a decision to curtail its support for Shiite factions in 2008 but has now increased its activity in Iraq, sending in lethal arms that were being used against American forces.

Sadr said his decision about the Mahdi Army came after a recent incident in the Amine district of eastern Baghdad where a militiaman in a local dispute had called in gunmen who had shot and killed one resident and wounded another.

"I am innocent of all the abuses that people commit in my name," Sadr said.

Before it was disbanded in 2008, the Mahdi Army numbered some 60,000 fighters with fierce loyalty to Sadr.

The anti-US cleric, who has been pursuing off-and-on religious studies in the Iranian clerical centre of Qom, is the son of revered Grand Ayatollah Mohammed Sadiq al-Sadr, who was assassinated by Saddam's regime in 1999.

 

IS jihadists move closer than ever to central Damascus

UN confirms Palmyra temple destroyed

Turkey police raid anti-Erdogan media group after British reporters jailed

Shebab attack Somalia AU base

Over 10,000 Icelanders ready to welcome Syrians

Turkey government says it 'had no role' in reporters' arrest

IS claims Tripoli car bomb near oil firm

Dispute with Israel government keeps Christian schools shut

Kuwait charges 24 'linked to Iran' with plotting attacks

New Turkey caretaker government holds first meeting

Dozens of Lebanon protesters occupy environment ministry

Will Erdogan's political gamble solve Turkey poll impasse?

Libya loyalist forces battle IS jihadists in Benghazi

South Sudan peace deal in jeopardy

Pressure builds on Europe as refugee crisis exposes splits

Israel confirms jail for Druze ex-MP over visit to Syria

Egypt much delayed elections to start on October 17

Palmyra temple appears ‘largely intact’ after ISIS blast

Turkey to offer cash rewards for tips on ‘terrorists’

Yemen children's hospital on the verge of shutting down

In gruesome video, ISIS shows burning alive of Iraq Shiite fighters

Four years after famine, situation in Somalia remains alarming

A year on, recapture of Yazidi hub remains a distant prospect

EU leaders call for action to defend migrants’ 'dignity'

IS blows up parts of famed Palmyra temple

Deadly fire at housing complex of Aramco in Saudi Arabia

In historic first, Saudi Arabia allows women to run in local elections

Israel repels protesters with tear gas at separation barrier in West Bank

ISIS brutality in Syria: Over 90 people executed in one month

Bashir to visit China despite international arrest warrant

Egypt summons British envoy in row over Al-Jazeera trial

Yemen war seeks to stop ‘Iran expansion’ in Arab region

Lebanon protesters to government: Meet our demands of face escalation

Calls for action on refugee crisis mount after Austrian tragedy

Kuwait lawmaker describes Iran as 'true enemy' of Gulf Arabs

Two French journalists charged with bid to blackmail Morocco King

Algeria detains former intelligence chief

Kurdish forces free seven Iraq villages from clasps of ISIS

Toll in Libya shipwreck tragedy rises to 111

Egypt court hands Al-Jazeera reporters three years in prison

UN to host new round of Libya peace talks next week

US names ‘First Special Presidential Envoy for Hostage Affairs’

Mounting death toll of security forces triggers questions in Turkey

Deadly terrorist blast rocks Karanah suburb in Bahrain

Brief truce between Syria regime and rebels collapses