The Mahdi Army is back. From the Telegraph, with thanks to JJohnson:
American troops and the Mahdi Army militia of Moqtada al-Sadr clashed in the slums of Baghdad yesterday, raising fears for the future of a year-long US truce with the fiery Shia cleric’s gunmen.
The fighting came as insurgent attacks took the lives of at least 31 people, including 13 commandos from the elite Wolf Brigade, the Iraqi army’s showcase anti-terrorism unit, killed when a suicide bomber rammed into their convoy in the south-east of the capital.
Mahdi Army gunmen opened fire on US forces that entered their stronghold in Baghdad’s Sadr City slums to arrest three of their colleagues accused by the Americans of running a “kidnap and torture” cell.
Coalition forces in Iraq appear to have run out of patience with the Mahdi Army after what one US officer described as “repeated provocation” in recent months.
The crackdown began last week when British officers arrested three senior Mahdi Army officials in Basra on suspicion of carrying out attacks on military targets in southern Iraq.
The arrests caused a week of tension in the southern city between British forces and Sadr’s outlawed Mahdi Army, which was suspected of having taken captive two undercover British soldiers who were later arrested.