Police in Baghdad raised the death toll for the two bombings in Karrada on Thursday to 68, with 120 wounded.
Meanwhile, on Friday two bombings in Mosul killed 6 persons and wounded 35.
Iraqi president and Kurdish leader, Jalal Talabani, met in Turkey with high Turkish officials and pledged to them that he would rein in the Kurdish Worker Party guerrillas that have been sneaking over into Turkey and killing Turkish troops.
According to Sawt al-Iraq writing in Arabic, Shiite cleric Sayyid Muqtada al-Sadr had a statement distributed at Friday prayers in Karbala explaining his “corporeal separation” from his followers, “if that is the right expression for it.” He said it was in part to fulfill his father’s counsel that he complete his seminary studies. He said doing so was necessary in order to liberate Iraq and “make our society Islamic.” (I take it he means he will be better able to fight for these two goals if he becomes an ayatollah.) He said he had not succeeded in either goal, and the Occupation continues, which is one of the reasons he has secluded himself. Finally, he cited the lack of obedience among his followers and said that their departure from the right path “pushed me to withdraw, as a means of objecting to them and to insure that I was blameless before God.”
He said that the contemporary scene in Iraq is “worldly and characterized by social turmoil.” He said he would return when the other causes were removed.
He complained that many of his followers had not returned to their seminary, busying themselves instead with politics. He seemed to say that he felt deserted and so had withdrawn, “since a single hand cannot clap.”
He said he had left affairs in the hands of an administrative committee, the “Office of the Martyr Sadr.” They should follow orders issuing from it under its seal or his.
Sadr recently renewed for another six months a “freeze” on the activities of his paramilitary, the Mahdi Army. The freeze is highly unpopular with many of his commanders, some of whom have broken with him and formed their own groups.
It should be noted that for a Shiite holy figure to “vanish” is hardly unprecedented. Such an absence recalls the Twelfth Imam, Muhammad al-Mahdi, who disappeared as a child and was said to communicate with the faithful through ‘agents.’ A vanished leader sometimes has an extra cachet because of this Shiite tradition.
My guess is that Muqtada’s absence from the national political scene is intended to pave the way to big Sadrist victories in the southern provinces during the October provincial elections. By letting the Marines purge his cadres of the disloyal and the gratuitously violent, he will create a more favorable image of his movement and attact more votes. He seems to be intent on taking over the Shiite provincial governments in the south.
At the Napoleon’s Egypt blog, a new letter on British-Ottoman intrigues against the French.