Iraq Cleric's Militia Faces Off With U.S.
It’s a ragtag army. Scruffy, unshaven young fighters clop around town in cheap plastic slippers, their black shirts hanging down over their pants. Al-Mahdi Army militiamen say they are cabbies, teachers, computer programmers, the out of work, some brought by devotion to the group’s leader, the radical cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, others drawn by the free meals. The fighters tend to congregate around Najaf’s shrine of Imam Ali, the revered cousin and son-in-law of Prophet Muhammad, although they also rove the city of 300,000 people in pickup trucks. Many townspeople complain the militiamen are mostly young thugs and petty crooks. Full Story