Iraq's Mehdi militia showing stress

April 3, 2007 at 12:27 PM
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BAGHDAD, April 3 (UPI) -- Commanders in the Iraqi Mehdi militia of Shiite Muslim cleric Moqtada Sadr say the organization has been weakened by having an absent leader.

Since Iraqi and U.S. troops began a security push in Baghdad seven weeks ago, Sadr's location hasn't been revealed, but his standing orders are causing problems, a Los Angeles Times correspondent reported from Baghdad.

Two of his orders were to stop attacks on Sunni Arabs and to allow U.S. forces to work alongside Iraqi troops. Those came as Sadr also runs a political party with 30 elected lawmakers and six Cabinet ministers, and Sadr was trying to help reconstruction efforts.

However, Abu Ferras Mutarri, the movement's political chief in the sprawling Baghdad Shiite suburb of Sadr City said the Mehdi militants are becoming restless, and defections are on the rise.

"Soon fighters might stop listening to their orders to stay quiet," said Mutarri. "If this deterioration continues, it will snowball."

A Mehdi commander who requested anonymity told the Times the militants are being further hobbled by Iranian agents who are recruiting Mehdi members away to fight U.S. troops.

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Topics: Sadr City
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