US Army Captain Will McNutt, the Military Transition Team chief assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 42nd Brigade, 11th Iraqi Army Division, provides security from a building rooftop as Iraqi army soldiers battle the Mahdi Army in the Sadr City district of Baghdad April 17. (US Air Force photo/Technical Sergeant Adrian Cadiz)
Less than one week after threatening to conduct an uprising against the Iraqi government and US forces, Muqtada al Sadr, the leader of the Mahdi Army, has called for his fighters to maintain the self-imposed cease-fire. The US and Iraqi military continue to strike at Sadr’s Mahdi Army in Baghdad. Fourteen “criminals” were killed in strikes in Sadr City, making 82 Mahdi fighters killed in the six days since Sadr threatened renewed violence.
In a statement read during the Friday prayers at the Al Hikma mosque in Sadr City, Sadr called for his militia to halt the fighting. “You have been patiently committed to the freeze decision and magnificently obeyed your leader,” Sadr statement read, according to Voices of Iraq. “I hope you retain your patience and faith.”
Sadr also said he did not threaten the Iraqi government with “open war” last weekend, but was directing his threat against Coalition forces. “The open war we threaten is meant against the occupiers,” Sadr said. “There is no war between us and our Iraqi brothers regardless of their sect or ethnicity.”
But Sadr then seemingly contradicted himself when he demanded the government “rein in the militias infiltrated” into the security forces. “I give the Iraqi government the last warning that we would wage an open war until liberation if it failed to rein in the militias infiltrated into it,” Sadr said.
Iraqi and US troops are not operating under any cease-fire in Baghdad. Iraqi and US soldiers killed 14 Mahdi Army fighters since last evening, upping the number to 86 Mahdi Army fighters killed in the Baghdad region since April 20. Ten Mahdi Army fighters were killed as they planted roadside bombs and fired mortars and rockets at US and Iraqi bases. Four more Mahdi Army fighters were killed after Iraqi National Police, backed by US soldiers, raided a psychiatric hospital. “We will not relent in our efforts to rid Baghdad of these criminal elements,” said Colonel Allen Batschelet, the chief of staff for Multinational Division Baghdad.
US and Iraqi troops killed 16 Mahdi Army fighters and captured five during recent clashes in Baghdad, Rashidiyah, and Hussaniyah.