Muqtada al-Sadr calls for end to fighting

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Prominent Iraqi Shi'a cleric Muqtada al-Sadr has told followers, the Mahdi Army militia, to stop fighting Iraqi and coalition forces and to cooperate with them.

This comes after six days of fierce fighting in Iraq's southern city of Basra, Baghdad and other Shi'a areas that has left over 240 to 250 dead.

The statement and offer came from al-Sadr's headquarters in Najaf. In the statement Sadr said, "Because of the religious responsibility, and to stop Iraqi blood being shed, and to maintain the unity of Iraq and to put an end to this sedition that the occupiers and their followers want to spread among the Iraqi people, we call for an end to armed appearances in Basra and all other provinces."

Sadr also condemned further attacks against the Iraqi government stating, "We announce our disavowal from anyone who carries weapons and targets government institutions, charities and political party offices."

However, al-Sadr also called on the government to offer general amnesty, release detainees and stop what he believes are illegal raids.

An Iraqi government spokesman, Ali al-Dabbagh, welcomed the statement as "positive and responsive." The Madhi Army had been negotiating since Saturday night with the Iraqi government. Ali al-Dabbagh said, "As the government of Iraq we welcome this statement. We believe this will support the government of Iraq's efforts to impose security."

American forces targeted the Baghdad neighborhood of Sadr City with air strikes that killed 9 people and wounded 14. Another airstrike was launched at the northern Baghdad neighborhood of al-Zuhor, which killed 6 people and wounded 14. The American military said they killed 11 militants in those areas.