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Sadr's cease-fire gets a cautious welcome

Sadr's cease-fire gets a cautious welcome

Iraq and the U.S. military yesterday cautiously welcomed radical Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr's freeze on armed action by his feared militia, including a halt to attacks on U.S. troops.
The anti-American firebrand ordered his Mahdi Army to suspend all activities for six months after his fighters were suspected of involvement in deadly gunbattles during a Shiite religious festival in the city of Karbala.
The fierce fighting between policemen and gunmen left 52 people dead and 300 wounded as hundreds of thousands of pilgrims were gathered to celebrate the birth anniversary of eighth century Imam Mohammed al-Mahdi.
National security advisor Muwaffaq al-Rubaie told the BBC it was "very good news" that would "contribute to peace and stability."
The U.S. military also gave a cautious welcome, but said it would wait to see whether the order was followed by Sadr's fighters.
"Any time someone in Iraq, especially a leader, wants to use non-violent methods to solve problems and to participate in a meaningful way in the future of Iraq, we encourage this," said spokesman Colonel Chris Garver.
"The suspension means that the Mahdi Army will stop all armed activities against the occupiers or any other groups," said Sheikh Ahmed al-Shaibani, a Sadr aide.
"The aim is to reorganize the militia but not to dismantle it. It is also an effort to root out the rogue elements."
Sadr's militia, which gained a nationalist and anti-American image since it launched two rebellions against the U.S. military in 2004, has been accused by Sunni Arab leaders of slaughtering members of their community since the outbreak of communal strife in Iraq last year.
The U.S. military has also regularly accused Sadr's fighters of killing the Sunnis and specifically charged some of the militia's "rogue" elements of murdering American troops with the help of Iranian weapons, charges strongly denied by Tehran.
In December, the Pentagon identified the militia as the biggest threat to stability, even ahead of al-Qaida in Iraq, the local affiliate of Osama bin Laden's terror network.


Updated : 2021-06-24 04:51 GMT+08:00