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Iraqi Shi'ite militia ready to join fight in Lebanon
A senior member of Muqtada al-Sadr's Iraqi Shi'ite militia, the Mahdi Army, says the group is forming a squadron of up to 1,500 elite fighters to go to Lebanon.
The plan reflects the potential of the fighting between Israel and Hezbollah to strengthen radical elements in Iraq and neighboring countries and to draw other regional players into the Lebanon conflict.
"We are choosing the men right now," said Abu Mujtaba, who works in the loosely organized following of radical Shi'ite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr. "We are preparing the right men for the job."
Mr. Mujtaba, who was interviewed in Baghdad, said some of the men have had special training but did not specify what kind.
Sheik al-Sadr's black-clad armed militia numbers in the thousands, operates throughout central and southern Iraq and is thought to be responsible for numerous killings of Sunnis.
A rival Sunni cleric, Abdul Rahman al-Duleimi, said he knew about the militia's recruiting effort and that he had appealed to his own followers to fight Israel.
"We know that the Mahdi militia is on this issue since the Lebanon-Israeli crisis started," said Sheik al-Duleimi, whose house in Baghdad contains a large portrait of former ruler Saddam Hussein. The cleric is not related to Adnan al-Dulaimi, also a Sunni cleric and leader of a major faction in parliament.