Friday, September 07, 2007


Al-Maliki determined to flush out Mahdi Army from Najaf, Karbala shrines

(Azzaman) - Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki is determined to clear the holy shrines of Najaf and Karbala of armed supporters of the Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, sources in Maliki’s party al-Daawa said. They said Maliki made the pledge in a meeting with the country’s top Shiite clergyman, Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani. Sadr has a political movement with a powerful military wing, the Mahdi Army, whose fighters have had until recently a dominant role among the multifarious Shiite militia groups in southern Iraq. But Sadr has ordered a six-month halt to operations targeting U.S. and Iraqi troops and his supporters are now rarely seen with arms in the streets of the two cities.
The sources, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Maliki is considering a plan to ‘uproot’ Sadr supporters similar to the policy of debaathification under which members and supporters of the former regime have been prevented from holding government posts. But it is not clear how Maliki would carry out such a pledge amid reports that the popularity of the young cleric and his Sadr movement is growing, particularly among the Shiites in Bagdad and major towns in southern Iraq. The movement which has 30 deputies in parliament and has the right to fill five ministerial posts has frozen its participation in the government in protest against Maliki’s policies.

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