Monday, August 06, 2007


Attempted assassination on one of al Sadr's top aides

Security, Politics
(McClatchy Newspapers) - On Sunday, men wearing Iraqi military uniforms tried to gun down one of radical Shiite cleric Muqtada al Sadr's top aides, raising questions about whether the powerful Mahdi Army controlled by Sadr may be turning on its own, using tactics typically linked to the Mahdi Army itself.
Sadr officials said that Sadr's top aide, Hazem al Araji, was in a convoy in the northwest Baghdad neighborhood of Kadhimiyah when armed men wearing Iraqi National Guard uniforms opened fire on him, injuring five of his bodyguards.
Sadr, an influential cleric, leads the Mahdi Army, which has infiltrated Iraqi security forces and is often accused of posing in Iraqi military uniforms to carry out its attacks. It is unclear whether the would-be assassins were actual Iraqi soldiers or possibly other backers of Sadr, whose movement has become splintered in recent months. A spokesperson for the Iraqi military could not be reached for comment Sunday.
Recently, al Araji was reported to have lost clout in the Sadr movement and some of his control over the Mahdi Army in Kadhimiyah.
Qahtan al Sudani, a spokesman for Araji who leads the Sadr office in Kadhimiyah, blamed the attack on Sunnis.
"We accuse the Baathist takfiris," al Sudani said referring to both Saddam Hussein's secular party and Sunni extremists.
Araji was a devotee of Sadr's late father, a prominent Iraqi ayatollah. Araji fled Iraq in 1999 after Sadr's father was killed and returned from exile in Canada in 2003. U.S. forces twice detained Araji after the Mahdi Army fought two bitter uprisings against the Americans in 2004, but released on both occasions.

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