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Unarmed cadre soon: Al Sadr

Atul Aneja

DUBAI: Leading Iraqi Shia cleric Moqtada Al-Sadr has announced that his 60,000 strong Mahdi army will suspend all military operations indefinitely. He added that a new unarmed cadre of activists was being developed that would be active in the social and cultural fields.

“The Mahdi army suspension will be valid indefinitely and anyone who does not follow this order will not be considered a member of this group,” said Mr. Al-Sadr in the statement on Thursday. The decision assumes significance as the Mahdi army has in the past spearheaded two rebellions against the American occupation forces in Iraq.

Analysts point out that Mr. Al Sadr has increasingly fallen under the influence of Iran, which is playing a key role in creating conditions that would see the exit of foreign troops.

Elaborating on the new directive, a senior member of the Al-Sadr group, Sayid Fareed Al-Fadhili said the Mahdi army would have a two-tiered structure. “The first section is the armed one for resisting only the occupiers and to not carry weapons against any other side. The second part will undertake ethical and cultural issues to change the society from its tendencies toward a secular and Western orientation to a society based on Islamic and religious culture.”

The new non-armed wing would be called Mumahidoon — an Arabic word “meaning those who pave the way.” Observers say that it remains to be seen whether the new organisation would be similar to the Iranian Basij, which plays a key role in enforcing the regime’s social agenda.

Mr. Fadhili said the Mumahidoon’s work would only be “cultural and intellectual”. “We have certain specifications and regulations for each member to join this army, including a good reputation and good education and popularity among his neighbours and society,” he observed.

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