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A-‘Sadr Freezes Armed Activity in Iraq for 6 Months

Muqta’da A-‘Sadr, leader of one of Iraq’s strongest Shi’ite movements, has unilaterally announced the cessation of all armed activities for six months, including those committed against the United States Army, the Iraqi daily A-Zaman reported.
A-‘Sadr, who ordered members of his party to quit the government a few weeks ago, controls a large armed force, the Mahdi Army. According to a report issued by the U.S. Defense Department in November 2006, the Mahdi Army is considered the "most dangerous accelerant of potentially self-sustaining sectarian violence in Iraq." The Mahdi Army commands approximately 60,000 fighters, the report revealed.
"We call upon all members of the A-‘Sadr movement to show self-restraint and to help the security organizations control the situation," Muqta’da A-‘Sadr said in an announcement on Wednesday. A-‘Sadr also called on his followers to cease their attacks against the offices of the rival Shi’ite party – the Supreme Council of the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI), led by ‘Abd Al-‘Aziz Al-Hakim.
His call came following a series of clashes between members of his movement and SCIRI. The clashes were strongest in Karbala, where 52 people were killed during a Shi’ite holiday.
A-‘Sadr explained the Mahdi Army was about to "undergo reconstruction."
Meanwhile, Prime Minister Nouri Al-Maliki fired the commander of the Karbala Military Operations, Gen. ‘Salih Khaz’al Al-Maliki, for his failure to prevent the recent clashes.