Baghdad, Apr 20, (VOI)- The spokesman for the Iraqi government, Sunday, denied any direct contacts with the Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr who threatened to launch an “overall war” if the government did not stop campaigns against his followers.
“The government targets the outlaws and not a particular faction,” Ali al-Dabbagh said in a first reaction from the Iraqi government towards a statement issued yesterday by al-Sadr who threatened to declare "open war until liberation."
On March 25, Iraqi security forces started an operation, dubbed Charge of the Knights, in the southern Iraqi city of Basra to chase what the government termed as “outlaws” while Sadrists said “it targeted the Sadr’s Mahdi army fighters.”
A week later, Cleric Sadr ordered his followers in a statement to be off the streets and end armed appearances.
“We don’t have direct negotiations or contacts with the Sadr’s movement because we have nothing to negotiate with them but also we don’t have problems with the political factions,” Dabbagh explained.
The government spokesman reiterated the call to disband Mahdi army saying “the state can not withstand the existence of two armies”.
Mahdi army is a militia composed of followers of Sadr and they are active in many Shiite predominantly cities in Baghdad and southern provinces. There is no authentic statistics on the number of Mahdi army fighters but some observers put its number at 50,000.
TAGS: Middle-East Iraq