Army of the Mahdi on the Move; 10,000 Demonstrate
Militiamen of Muqtada al-Sadr’s Army of the Mahdi spread through the slums of East Baghdad Friday, after two of their number were killed in clashes with American troops. A crowd of 10,000 angry Shiites gathered to protest the deaths.
Al-Hayat said that the militiamen were killed in revenge for the ambush in Shiite East Baghdad on US soldiers the day before, which killed two and wounded four. It quoted eyewitnesses saying that US troops came back to Sadr City for a third time in the wee hours of Friday morning and attacked the office there of Muqtada al-Sadr. Wire services were less sure that the two firefights were connected.
One Sadrist clergyman, Abd al-Hadi al-Daraji, said in a sermon at Friday prayers thatt Sadr City (the new name for the ghetto) was “offlimits to the Americans” and accused them of spreading the seeds of conflict within religious communities “now that they have failed to sow it between Sunni and Shiite.” Al-Daraji denied that Shiites were behind the truck bombing of the police station on Thursday, blaming it on Baathists. This allegation is probably correct.
Meanwhile, Muqtada al-Sadr said on Friday that he had established an alternative government to the Interim Governing Council, even though he recognized the dangers in doing so. It is not entirely clear what he thinks this means. Is it that his Sadr Movement is now a state within a state? He probably does control much of the 2 million population of East Baghdad, as well as the poorer neighborhoods of Basra, and also has some strength among some of the tribes in the middle and lower Euphrates. Note that social theorists such as Charles Tilly posit that where dual sovereignty emerges (multiple claims to legitimate governmental authority), one has a revolutionary situation. Is that what Muqtada is trying to provoke? There seems to be a growing clash between the radical Shiites and the US military, on top of the low-grade insurgency in the Sunni Arab regions.
In Najaf, Cleric Sadr al-Din al-Qabanji announced the beginnings of a campaign to uproot the Baath party remnants.