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Iraq’s Sadr orders followers off streets

NAJAF — Iraqi Shi’ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr called on his followers on Sunday to stop battling government forces after a week of fighting in southern Iraq and Baghdad threatened to spiral out of control. A crackdown on Shi’ite militants in the southern oil port of Basra has sparked an explosion of violence that has risked undoing the past year’s improvements in Iraq’s security.

“Because of the religious responsibility, and to stop Iraqi blood being shed … we call for an end to armed appearances in Basra and all other provinces,” Sadr said in a statement given to journalists by his aides in the holy Shi’ite city of Najaf.

“Anyone carrying a weapon and targeting government institutions will not be one of us.”

Sadr’s statement appeared aimed at averting a full-scale confrontation between his followers and Iraqi and U.S. forces that would plunge southern, mainly Shi’ite Iraq into chaos.


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