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Al-Sadr Pulls Thugs Off Streets, Media Despair

From a deeply disappointed Reuters:

Iraq’s Sadr orders followers off streets

Sun Mar 30, 2008

By Khaled Farhan

NAJAF, Iraq March 30 (Reuters) – Iraqi Shi’ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr called on his followers on Sunday to stop battling government forces after a week of fighting in Iraq’s south and the capital threatened to spiral out of control.

The government immediately welcomed Sadr’s statement, saying it would help the authorities impose security in Iraq.

A government crackdown on Sadr’s followers in the southern oil port of Basra has sparked an explosion of violence that risks undoing recent improvements in Iraq’s fragile security and jeopardising U.S. plans to withdraw troops.

"Because of the religious responsibility, and to stop Iraqi blood being shed … we call for an end to armed appearances in Basra and all other provinces," Sadr said in a statement given to journalists by his aides in the holy Shi’ite city of Najaf.

"Anyone carrying a weapon and targeting government institutions will not be one of us," the statement said.

Sadr also called on the government to stop "random illegal arrests" of his followers and to implement an amnesty law passed by Iraq’s parliament in February to free prisoners…

Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki has ordered Shi’ite fighters in Basra to lay down their arms and has extended a 72-hour deadline until April 8 for them to turn over heavy and medium weapons in return for cash.

But a top aide to Sadr, Hazem al-Araji, said Mehdi Army fighters would not hand over their guns. He also said that Sadr’s followers had received a guarantee from the government that it would end "random arrests" of Sadr followers.

"As the government of Iraq we welcome this statement," Maliki’s spokesman, Ali al-Dabbagh, said in response to Sadr’s comments. "We believe this will support the government of Iraq’s efforts to impose security." …

Alas, this was our watchdog media’s last best hope for a US defeat.

This article was posted by Steve Gilbert on Sunday, March 30th, 2008. Comments are currently closed.

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