Baghdad, Asharq Al-Awsat—Al-Sadr Movement leader, Muqtada Al-Sadr, has reiterated his demand for the Iraqi government to curtail the activities of armed militias in Baghdad.
The controversial cleric called on the residents of Al-Kazimiyah district and his supporters to cooperate to limit the influence of Asa’ib Ahl Al-Haq (“League of the Righteous”), led by Qais Al-Khaza’ali.
Sadr also blamed government for failing to deal with last week’s incident in Al-Nukhayb in western Anbar, where insurgents though to be Al-Qaeda members killed 15 people. No group, including Al-Qaeda, has yet claimed responsibility for the incident.
The statements said: “We give our condolences to the families of the martyrs, and we condemn this cowardly act by the terrorists.”
Sadr also called on the government to stop attacks on Iranian visitors.
The statement called on “Sadr and Iraq’s supporters to cooperate with residents of Al-Kazimiyah district of Baghdad, and other districts where tribal clashes had taken place in retaliation to the Al-Kazimiyah incident, to curb the influence of this misguided group [Asa’ib Ahl Al-Haq], using legitimate means, instead of murder and intimidation.”
The head of the Sadr Movement’s Al-Ahrar bloc in Iraqi’s parliament, Baha Al-A’raji, has reiterated that “responsibilities were shared. Some of the responsibilities are the governments’, some the tribes’, and some societies’, and without all parties accepting their part, peace and security will not be achieved.”
Al-A’raji told Asharq Al-Awsat: “Sayyid Al-Sadr wants to warn against the dangers Iraq is facing right now; therefore, he has tried through this statement to deal with a number of issues at the same time.”
“[The] Al-Nukhayb incident is a clear example of sectarian sedition, regardless of the responsibility of the government and the army of protecting the public. There are issues that cannot be ignored, one of which is that the army cannot cover the whole of the desert, while there are tribes there who could cooperate with the authorities in identifying strangers,” he added.
He said: “what was taking place in other governorates was the sole responsibility of the government, because if we wanted to build a state of institutions, we cannot in any circumstances allow certain parties or militias to act in any a way which may be deemed official, and behave as if it was the state. This is something which we have to look at closely, because we cannot accept this duplicity.”
Al-A’raji also said that the presence of armed militias raised serious questions about possible government complicity in their activities.
“There are some well-known militias, meaning Asa’ib Ahl Al-Haq, who carry official badges, wear military uniforms and drive government vehicles. This level of infiltration into the state system raises curiosity,” he said.
“if the state did not know, it is a disaster, but if it did know, it is a bigger disaster.”
On the targeting of Iranian visitors, Al-A’raji said: “this thing must be looked at seriously because if Iran was seen by someone as a country which interferes in Iraqi affairs, then this different. The visitors are peaceful people who have nothing to do with politics, and therefore, targeting them is wrong and irresponsible.”