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Iraqi Shi'ite militia ready to join fight in Lebanon
by reposted
Wednesday Jul 26th, 2006 7:13 PM
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.

by more
Wednesday Jul 26th, 2006 7:14 PM

(Updates with the enlisting of volunteers to fight in Lebanon).
BAGHDAD, Iraq (AP)--Radical Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr will send a truck full of medicine and food to Lebanese families affected by Israel's two-week military operations, his aide said Wednesday.
The supplies were purchased in Syria and will be sent from there, said Jalil al-Nouri. Al-Sadr's office feared that the truck might be attacked if sent from Baghdad through Iraq's tense western province of Anbar, he said.
"The truck is ready to move to Lebanon," he said without saying when it will head there.
Al-Sadr, like many Shiite clerics, has an office in Damascus where Islam's Prophet Muhammad's granddaughter, Zeinab, is buried. Her shrine is holy for Shiites who visit it from around the world.
Al-Sadr is a Shiite like Lebanon's Hezbollah group that captured two Israeli soldiers two weeks ago.
Iraqi officials, including Shiite Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, who is currently in Washington, have called for an immediate cease of hostilities that have left hundreds of people dead and wounded as well as some half a million persons displaced in Lebanon.
Al-Sadr's followers have said that al-Maliki should have canceled his visit to Washington because of the United States' support of Israel.
In the southern city of Basra, dozens of volunteers gathered at the office of a Shiite group to enlist as volunteers to fight along with Lebanon's Hezbollah fighters, in response to a call by the group's leader.
Youssef al-Mousawi said the enlisting process of volunteers began Wednesday and it will be still open until further notice. He added that the number of volunteers enlisted reached 200 people.
It is unlikely the volunteers will actually make it to Lebanon since Lebanese and Iraqi authorities will try to prevent them from going.
by more
Wednesday Jul 26th, 2006 7:15 PM
AGHDAD, Iraq - Putting more U.S. soldiers in the streets of Baghdad risks a new showdown with a radical anti-American cleric who has modeled his movement after Lebanon's Hezbollah guerrillas.

Muqtada al-Sadr's Mahdi Army has re-emerged as a key force in the majority Shiite community after suffering substantial losses during two uprisings against the U.S. military in 2004. Sunni Arabs believe the militia is responsible for kidnapping and killing thousands of Sunnis since the Feb. 22 bombing of a Shiite shrine.

Al-Sadr's black-clad followers insist they simply protect Shiite communities that have suffered horrific losses at the hands of Sunni insurgents and religious extremists such as al-Qaida in Iraq since the collapse of Saddam Hussein's Sunni-dominated regime in 2003.

Whatever the truth, there is no way to restore order in Baghdad without dealing with al-Sadr and his followers _ believed to be the largest and most active Shiite militia in Iraq.

U.S. officials believe disbanding Shiite and Sunni armed groups is essential to curbing the sectarian violence threatening the government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and U.S. plans for removing substantial numbers of troops before U.S. congressional elections in November.

"If you don't do this, you end up with a situation like you have in Lebanon, where the militia becomes a state within a state," the top U.S. commander in the Middle East, Gen. John Abizaid, said in an interview this week with National Public Radio.

"It makes the state impotent to be able to deal with security challenges," he said.

Coalition forces already have begun moving against the Mahdi Army. In the last month, British troops have arrested the Mahdi commander in the southern city of Basra. And American soldiers killed 15 militiamen in a gunfight 40 miles south of the capital last weekend.

U.S. and Iraqi forces have staged at least two major raids this month in Sadr City, the Mahdi Army's Baghdad stronghold.