Najaf: Fiery Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr
sharply criticised an offshoot of his movement on Sunday, accusing
them of killing Iraqi soldiers and policemen and being
beholden to neighbouring Iran.
It is the first time Sadr, who is himself judged by
critics as close to Tehran, has publicly stated that Asaib
Ahel al-Haq, or the League of the Righteous, is supported by
the Islamic Republic.
The cleric said that the Shiite militia, which is blamed
for the killing of US troops, had only recently decided to lay
down their arms because a political standoff in Baghdad has
raised the spectre of early elections.
The group was also behind the 2007 kidnap of a British IT
consultant and his four bodyguards.
"I have asked the people who are in charge of them in the
Islamic Republic to change the name of Asaib, and change their
dual leadership," Sadr said in a written response to a letter
from a follower, published by his office today. "But these
One of Asaib Ahel al-Haq`s leaders later dismissed Sadr`s
accusations of political expediency.
Washington has long blamed Iran for training and equipping
Shiite militias, including Asaib Ahel al-Haq, that have
carried out attacks against US and Iraqi soldiers, charges
Sadr did not specify what he meant by the group`s "dual
leadership" but Asaib Ahel al-Haq is jointly led by the
brothers Qais and Laith al-Khazali.
Sadr long ran his own feared Mahdi Army militia, and while
that has been deactivated as a violent force, the offshoot
Promised Day Brigade is seen as close to Sadr.
"They (Asaib Ahel al-Haq) handed over their weapons to be
part of the political process," Sadr said, referring to Qais
al-Khazali`s December 26 remarks that the group would join the
Sadr said those weapons were used to kill "honest people",
charging the organisation with killing Iraqi soldiers and
policemen, as well as Saleh al-Ogayly, an MP who was killed by
a booby-trapped motorcycle in the Shiite bastion of Sadr City
in Baghdad in October 2008.
"Today, the opportunity of an election has come, and their
intentions have become clear," Sadr said.