Sadr calls for an end to 'U.S. occupation'

April 10, 2011 - 0:0

Moqtada al Sadr, a prominent Iraqi Shia cleric, has threatened to revive his Mehdi Army and relaunch armed resistance against continued U.S. presence in the country.

The threat came as tens of thousands of people marched across the capital Baghdad, marking the eighth anniversary of former leader Saddam Hussein's fall on Saturday, Al Jazeera reported.
A spokesperson of al Sadr, said the U.S. had until the end of the year to meet the cleric's demands.
The Shia leader, returned to Iraq from a self-imposed exile following a strong showing by his bloc in the 2010 parliamentary election in January 2011.
Al Jazeera correspondent Jane Arraf, reporting from Baghdad, said that this time Sadr had not only warned U.S. troops but also the contractors.
“The rally marks the start of new campaign by one of the most powerful political forces in Iraq and it must be remembered that the Shia leader had fought against the U.S. army in 2004,” she said.
“The protests were also directed against the government for not providing jobs and basic services to the people.”
Shortly after the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in 2003, the Shia leader had spoken out against the Coalition Provisional Authority, led by Paul Bremer.
He has continually criticized the U.S. military presence in Iraq.
Al-Sadr froze his militia in 2007, dramatically reducing violence in the country.
His appeal to the poor and dispossessed accounts for much of his popularity, but some Iraqis support him as symbol of resistance against U.S. presence.
Shouting anti-U.S. slogans and calling for unity among Shias and Sunnis in Iraq, the Iraqi demonstrators urged the “immediate withdrawal of U.S. troops” from the war-wrecked country, a Press TV correspondent reported.
The protest came after U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates said on Thursday that the United States would maintain troops in Iraq beyond the agreed 2011 final withdrawal date if Iraq's government asked for extra help.
A 2008 security agreement between Baghdad and Washington mandates the withdrawal of American forces from Iraq before 2012.
The United States completed military operations in the country during the summer of 2009 and withdrew its combat units. Most U.S. soldiers are scheduled to leave Iraq in the summer of 2011.
According to the Associated Press, about 47,000 U.S. troops remain in Iraq, down from a peak of more than 170,000.
At least 4,443 Iraqis have so far been killed in Iraq since the U.S.-led invasion of the Middle Eastern country in 2003, the independent said.
Photo: Tens of thousands marched in Baghdad calling for an end to U.S. military presence in Iraq. (Reuters photo)