Apparently Al-Sadr is feeling the heat for the mosque attacks in Karbala. “Iraqi Cleric Muqtada al-Sadr Suspends Mahdi Army Activities,” from AP (thanks to Mackie):
BAGHDAD “” Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr has ordered a six-month suspension of activities by his Mahdi Army militia in order to reorganize the force, an aide said Wednesday.
The aide, Sheik Hazim al-Araji, said on Iraqi state television that the goal was to “rehabilitate” the organization, which has reportedly broken into factions, some of which the U.S. maintains are trained and supplied by Iran.
“We declare the freezing of the Mahdi Army without exception in order to rehabilitate it in a way that will safeguard its ideological image within a maximum period of six months starting from the day this statement is issued,” al-Araji said, reading from a statement by al-Sadr.
The order was issued after two days of bloody clashes in the Shiite holy city of Karbala that claimed at least 52 lives. Iraqi security officials blamed Mahdi militiamen for attacking mosque guards, some of whom are linked to the rival Badr Brigade militia.
A spokesman for al-Sadr, Ahmed al-Shaibani, denied the Mahdi Army was involved in the Karbala fighting. Al-Sadr called for an independent inquiry into the clashes and urged his supporters to cooperate with the authorities “to calm the situation down,” al-Shaibani said.