Al Sadr's Comeback Spoiled After Top Aides Are Shot Dead

This was supposed to be his day!
Al Sadr makes first public appearance since October.
Back from his Iranian vacation, al Sadr was at the pulpit attacking the US…

While Iraqi Special Forces and the Brits took out his top commanders in Basra.
Welcome Back Mookie.

Radical Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr speaks to supporters at Friday prayers at his local mosque in Kufa. Sadr appeared at Friday prayers at his local mosque in Kufa, central Iraq, to demand a US troop withdrawal five months after commanders claimed he had fled to Iran.(AFP/Qassem Zein)

Firebrand anti-American, anti-Israeli cleric made his first public appearance in 7 months.
AFP reported:

Radical Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr appeared at Friday prayers at his local mosque in Kufa, central Iraq, to demand a US troop withdrawal five months after commanders claimed he had fled to Iran.

The young preacher, the leader of one of Iraq’s most powerful armed movements, arrived at the mosque surrounded by an entourage of Shiite clerics for weekly prayers for the first time since October last year.

“No, no to the unjust! No, no to America! No, no to colonialism! No, no to Israel! No, no to Satan,” he declared, as he began his address before hundreds of supporters, who showered him with handfuls of sweets.

“I want to renew our demand for the departure of the occupation,” he said.

US officials had said the firebrand cleric slipped out of Iraq in January ahead of a joint US-Iraqi security sweep that has since targeted his militia, the Mahdi Army, which is accused of taking part in sectarian attacks.

But, things may not be so rosy for Al-Sadr…
US officials reported that he had returned to Iraq after a four-month sojourn in Iran earlier this week. reported:

The prevailing view among U.S. officials familiar with the intelligence reports is that al-Sadr’s aim at a minimum is to raise his political profile in Iraq and possibly strengthen his position in anticipation of provincial elections next year.

There also have been reports that his militia has been splintering, and he may be trying to reinforce influence over his supporters.

MORE… While Mookie was raging at the Americans he lost a couple of his boys in Basra.
The Guardian reported:

The leader of the Shia Mahdi Army militia in the southern Iraqi city of Basra has been killed in a shoot out with British soldiers, Iraqi police said.

Wissam al-Waili, 23, also known as Abu Qadir, was shot and killed along with his brother and two aides during the battle.

The Mahdi Army of radical Shia Muqtada al-Sadr is fiercely opposed to the presence of US and British troops in Iraq. However, the militia has lowered its profile since US-led forces began a security crackdown in Baghdad in February.

The gunbattle began about 4pm when British forces attempted to arrest al-Waili after he left a mosque in Jumhoriyah a middle class, residential area in central Basra, police said.

Al-Waili and his three companions opened fire and were killed in the subsequent gunbattle, police said.

Bill Roggio has the full scoop on Al Sadr.

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