On Sunday Moqtada al-Sadr, whose whereabouts have been uncertain for almost two months, issued a statement urging Mahdi Army militiamen "to end their three-day-long fight in Diwaniya, saying it was a 'trap' by U.S.-led forces," AFP reported.[1]  --  "Accusing the U.S. authorities of sowing dissent between the Iraqis, the statement said the foreign forces planned to divide the people in Diwaniya," the unsigned AFP report said.  --  "'Iraq has had enough bloodshed.  The occupation forces, led by the biggest evil, America, [are] working to sow dissent either directly or through its agents,' said the statement."  --  The Washington Post reported Monday that four U.S. soldiers killed in Diwaniya were among ten to die in Iraq this weekend.[2] ...



Agence France-Presse
April 8, 2007


NAJAF, Iraq -- Iraq's radical Shiite cleric Moqtada Al Sadr Sunday urged his militiamen and security forces to end their three-day-long fight in Diwaniya, saying it was a "trap" by U.S.-led forces.

"He [Sadr] appeals to the Iraqi army and the Mahdi militia not to fall into America's trap by fighting in Diwaniya," said a statement stamped and issued by the cleric's office in the holy city of Najaf.

U.S. and Iraqi soldiers have clashed with Shiite militiamen, including from Sadr's Mahdi Army, in the central city of Diwaniya since Friday.

Calling for unity against U.S. troops, Sadr urged local forces not to support the "occupier because it is your enemy."

Accusing the U.S. authorities of sowing dissent between the Iraqis, the statement said the foreign forces planned to divide the people in Diwaniya.

"Iraq has had enough bloodshed. The occupation forces, led by the biggest evil, America, [are] working to sow dissent either directly or through its agents," said the statement.

Sadr, whom the U.S. military believes is in self-exile in Iran, led two bloody rebellions against U.S. forces in 2004 before entering the political process.

He calls repeatedly for foreign troops to leave Iraq, while his militia is accused by the U.S. military of launching attacks on minority Sunni Arabs.

His office insists that Sadr is in Iraq. The cleric has been seen neither in Iran nor in Iraq since before a major Iraqi-U.S. security crackdown began in Baghdad February 14.


By Sudarsan Raghavan

Washington Post
April 9, 2007
Page A08


BAGHDAD -- Calling the United States the "great evil," radical Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr on Sunday accused U.S. forces of dividing Iraq by stoking violence. He also urged his Mahdi Army militiamen and Iraqi security forces to stop fighting each other in Diwaniya, a southern city where clashes erupted late last week.

The influential cleric's verbal assault came as the U.S. military announced that 10 American soldiers were killed over the weekend, including six who died Sunday in attacks north and south of Baghdad. At least 69 Iraqis were also killed or found dead across Iraq.

Sadr, a fierce nationalist who has long called for a U.S. withdrawal, stopped short of telling his fighters to rise up against the American troops, a move that would severely complicate an ongoing security offensive underway in Iraq. Instead, he ordered his followers to remain united and to "demonstrate" to "end the occupation."

"My brothers in the Mahdi Army, and my brothers in the security services: enough fighting and rivalry, because that is only a success for our, and your, enemy," Sadr said in a statement brimming with emotion and passages from the Koran. "Infighting between brothers is not right, nor is it right to follow the dirty American sedition, or to defend . . . the occupier."

Sadr said the "enemy" wants "to draw you into a war to end Shiism, or rather Islam," and he urged Iraq's army and police to remain independent of U.S. forces and to avoid being "drawn after the occupier, because he is your stark enemy."

The message came as thousands of Iraqis flowed to the southern holy city of Najaf, heeding Sadr's call to stage a massive anti-U.S. protest on Monday, the fourth anniversary of the fall of Saddam Hussein.

Hundreds of buses and cars clogged the road to Najaf on Sunday, as thousands of his supporters waved Iraqi flags and shouted religious and anti-American slogans.

"No, no, no, to America . . . Moqtada, yes, yes, yes," they chanted, as Iraqi televisions crews followed. Abdul Razaq al-Nadawi, a Sadr spokesman in Najaf, said clashes erupted south of Baghdad between Mahdi Army militiamen and the police, who were apparently trying to stop them from heading to Najaf. He said that five militiamen were killed after protesters attacked the police with bricks and stones. The report could not be independently verified.

"The situation is tense now," Nadawi said.

The tensions followed two days of fierce battles pitting U.S. and Iraqi forces against Mahdi Army militiamen in Diwaniya. As U.S. combat aircraft launched airstrikes, house-to-house clashes erupted. A curfew was still being enforced Sunday in the city and U.S. forces patrolled the streets, said Hamid Jiati, a Diwaniya health official.

Sadr is engaged in an uneasy cooperation with U.S. and Iraqi forces in Baghdad, particularly in his stronghold of Sadr City. He has ordered his fighters to stand down as U.S. troops patrol and conduct security sweeps and to avoid being provoked into battle.

It is unclear whether Sadr ordered the Diwaniya clashes, rogue elements of the Mahdi Army rose up, or individual militiamen were simply defending their homes. But the clashes and Sadr's acerbic comments underscored the fragility of his cooperation with the new security offensive.

"Up until now, we have not made any decision to clash against the American or the Iraqi forces," Salah al-Ubaidi, a Sadr aide, said in a telephone interview from Najaf.

Sadr's aides say the cleric is in Iraq, and Ubaidi added that "there is a 65 percent possibility that Moqtada al-Sadr will come to the demonstration." U.S. military officials have said Sadr is in Iran.

Among the six U.S. casualties Sunday, three soldiers were killed in a roadside bomb attack during a patrol south of Baghdad, one was killed in a separate attack south of the capital and two died of wounds from combat operations in Diyala province and Salahuddin province, the military said. An explosion near a military vehicle Saturday in Diyala killed four soldiers, the military said.

A car bomb killed 17 people and wounded 28 in an industrial area of Mahmudiyah, a town south of Baghdad, police officials said, the latest in a series of attacks in Baghdad and other parts of Iraq since the security plan took effect in mid-February.

In a second attack in Mahmudiyah, rockets pounded a three-story building, killing 15 people and injuring 30, said Capt. Muthana Ahmad of Babil province police.

In southwestern Baghdad, a suicide car bombing at a market killed five people and wounded 25. A 24-hour ban on all vehicles was imposed in the capital from 5 a.m. Monday, the Associated Press reported.

Across the city, police found 10 unidentified bodies, blindfolded and showing signs of torture -- trademark killings of sectarian death squads, officials said.

West of the town of Baqubah, police uncovered nine corpses, and in the southern town of Karbala, police found the bodies of six shepherds. They had been blindfolded and shot, and their bodies showed signs of torture, police said.

--Special correspondents Saad Sarhan in Najaf, and Naseer Nouri, Saad al-Izzi, and K.I. Ibrahim in Baghdad contributed to this report.