RealNews

Pentagon to Confront Radical Iraqi Cleric

Iraq’s U.S.-led authorities are preparing for a showdown with a militant Shiite Muslim cleric whose illegal militia has fought recent gunbattles with both American troops and moderate Shiites, Pentagon officials said. The options include arresting Muqtada al-Sadr, whom American officials view as a possible threat to the U.S.-led military coalition occupying Iraq. However, the Americans also want to avoid touching off rioting or other violence by moving against the cleric, officials said. The 30-year-old cleric exhorts his followers with fiery anti-American sermons but so far has stopped short of calling for attacks on U.S. military forces. His militia openly defies the U.S.-led administration’s bans on private armies and people carrying unlicensed guns. Al-Sadr’s followers have engaged in deadly shootouts with other Shiite groups and American troops in the past two weeks, most recently in the holy city of Karbala south of Baghdad on Tuesday. U.S. officials believe al-Sadr’s actions require a response, said a senior defense official who spoke on condition of anonymity. What that response will be will be determined over the next few days, the official said Wednesday. Full Story

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