Al-Sadr men claim victory, leave Kufa

Hundreds of fighters loyal to Shia leader Muqtada al-Sadr have heeded his call to leave the city of Kufa.

    A peace deal has ended weeks of fierce fighting in Najaf and Kufa

    Before returning to their homes elsewhere in Iraq, the al-Sadr loyalists gathered for a rousing and jubilant Friday prayer at the Kufa mosque during which they proclaimed their continued support for the

    Shia leader.

     

    The unarmed fighters chanted outside the mosque that victory had been theirs and

    they could now return home.

     

    A recent ceasefire deal between al-Sadr supporters and US occupation forces ended weeks of fighting which had left hundreds of Shia fighters dead.

     

    They appeared to have interpreted the deal as having vanquished the US forces which have

    returned to their garrisons outside the city.

     

    Puppet jibe

     

    Al-Sadr - who led a two-month uprising in Iraq - denounced

    interim Iraqi President Ghazi al-Yawir as a US-installed puppet and called on the government to end its alliance with the occupation forces.

     

    The Shia leader told al-Yawir in comments read by an aide during the weekly Friday sermon

    at the Kufa mosque: "Your alliance with the occupation will bring only shame and

    disgrace to you."

     

    In a turnaround last week, al-Sadr had said he would support the new government,

    due to assume power on 1 July, but only if it worked to end the US presence in Iraq.

     

     

    "Your alliance with
    the occupation will
    bring only shame and
    disgrace to you"

    Shia leader Muqtada al-Sadr

    Al-Sadr's uprising, launched in April after US occupation authorities closed his newspaper, has left hundreds dead in clashes with US troops.

     

    Local fighters

     

    The Shia leader ordered those members of his Mahdi Army who do not live in the cities of

    Najaf and Kufa to leave last week - a key part of an agreement to end fighting there with US forces.

     

    Most of al-Sadr's fighters in the two cities are believed to be from the area and not

    covered by the order.

     

    Although calm has returned to Najaf, Kufa and Karbala, Baghdad's al-Sadr City has become the new battleground for the Shia insurgency.

     

    The poor Shia suburb of the Iraqi capital has seen pitched battles in recent weeks between US forces and al-Sadr loyalists.

    SOURCE: Unspecified


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