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Maliki Calls Sadr Militia Worse Than Al Qaeda

From those fans of terrorism at Reuters:

Sheik Salman al-Feraiji, Muqtada al-Sadr’s chief representative in Sadr City, talks to a group of Iraqi police officers who came to lay down their weapons in Sadr City, Baghdad, Iraq, Saturday, March 29, 2008.

Maliki says Sadrist foes "worse than al Qaeda"

By Peter Graff

BAGHDAD (Reuters) – Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki raised the stakes in his five-day-old crackdown on Shi’ite militants on Saturday, describing his foes as "worse than al Qaeda."

The death toll rose as fighting raged in Basra and Baghdad, where U.S. forces have been drawn deeper into a confrontation that started as an Iraqi initiative.

U.S. forces said they had killed 48 militants in air strikes and gun battles across the capital the previous day.

At least 133 bodies and 647 wounded have been brought to five hospitals in the eastern half of Baghdad over five days of clashes, the head of the health directorate for eastern Baghdad, Ali Bustan, said.

In Basra, government troops say they have killed 120 fighters. Scores of people have been reported killed in other towns across the south where fighting has spread.

"We used to talk about al Qaeda. Unfortunately it seems there are some among us who are worse than al Qaeda," Maliki said in a televised meeting with tribal leaders in Basra, where he has personally overseen the crackdown since Tuesday…

A Sadr aide said his representatives had made an overture to the reclusive Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, Iraq’s highest Shi’ite authority, in a bid to end the violence.

Maliki has announced he will fight the militants in Basra "until the end." He issued orders to his commanders in Baghdad to pursue militants in the capital with "no mercy."

But Mehdi Army fighters in black masks still control the streets of much of Iraq’s second-biggest city, manning checkpoints and openly brandishing rifles, machineguns and rocket launchers, reuters reporters in the town said.

"We will fight on and never give up our weapons," Mehdi Army deputy military commander in Basra Abu Hassan al-Daraji told Reuters by telephone. "We will not turn over a single bullet."

Mehdi Army fighters clashed with government forces on the western outskirts of Kerbala, one of Shi’ite Islam’s holiest cities. Iraqi commander Major-General Raad Jawdat said his forces had killed 21 "outlaws" and arrested 57 others…

Speaking of the meeting with Sistani, the Sadr aide, Salah al-Ubaidi, said Sistani had called for a peaceful solution.

Sistani almost never intervenes in politics. His views, if made public, would carry authority among Shi’ites in Sadr’s movement and in the political parties that support Maliki…

No mention of the previously announced deadline for the Sadr-ites to surrender.

I hope they don’t decide to let them (and him) off the hook yet again.

This article was posted by Steve on Saturday, March 29th, 2008. Comments are currently closed.

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