Security forces free most people abducted during a raid on a Baghdad ministry.
Muqtada al-Sadr, the young cleric whose Jaish al-Mahdi (Mahdi Army) militia dominates Sadr City, told chanting supporters in a Friday sermon that the most prominent religious figure from the Sunni group must issue an edict demanding an end to the killing of Shia Muslims.
One of al-Sadr’s political aides in parliament told Reuters it would pull out of the US-backed national unity government and from parliament if Nuri al-Maliki, the Shia prime minister, went ahead with next week’s meeting with George Bush, the US president, in Jordan.
Faleh Hasan Shanshal told Reuters: “We have asked al-Maliki to cancel his meeting with Bush as there is no reason to meet the criminal who is behind terrorism in Iraq.
“We will suspend our membership in parliament and the cabinet if he goes ahead.”
After the attacks, al-Maliki warned of “the dark hand of conspiracy that is shedding the blood of the innocent” and urged restraint, saying those responsible would be caught.
“The gunmen came in civilian cars and pick-up trucks and started shooting at the building”
Hakim al-Zamili, deputy health minister
The attackers fired mortars, rocket-propelled grenades and machine guns into the compound. The ministry is run by followers of al-Sadr.