Friday, May 04, 2007

Report: Shiite Mahdi, Badr militia members in armed clash in Baghdad

Above: Iraqi police officers march in formation during the Provincial Iraqi Control ceremony in Najaf, Iraq at the end of December.

Left: Abdul Aziz al-Hakim and Moqtada al-Sadr, the two leading Shi'ite political figures in Iraq, outside of Prime Minister Maliki.

Abdul Aziz al-Hakim is head of the Shi'ite coalition in parliament, which put Maliki in power. Before the fall of Saddam, Hakim spent years in exile in Iran, where, as leader of the pro-Iranian Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI) he headed the anti-Saddam Badr Brigade militia. After Saddam's fall, the Badr Brigade merged into Iraq's official security forces, and Hakim became a member of the U.S.-appointed Iraqi Governing Council.

Moqtada al-Sadr stayed in Iraq but in hiding during Saddam's time. He organized and headed the Mahdi Army militia, and was standard bearer for millions of Iraq's poorest citizens. While Hakim proved accommodating to the U.S., Sadr was the chief proponent for Shi'ite resistance to the occupation.

Both have distinguished lineage in the Shi'ite clergy, and both families have vied for generations for influence in Shi'ite Iraq. Both the Mahdi Army and Badr Brigade are heavily represented in various Iraqi security forces, includng the army and the national police.

Clashes erupted between rival Shiite militia groups in Baghdad 's Sadr City neighborhood on Friday, when one militia launched an attack on the other's headquarters, police said.

The violence between the Mahdi Army loyal to radical Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr and the Badr Brigades of the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq began earlier Friday when Iraqi police loyal to the Badr Brigades prevented a Sadr aide from entering the southern Shiite holy city of Najaf.

A brief fight broke out between the two sides, injuring four people, hospital officials said. Police in Najaf, 160 kilometers (100 miles) south of Baghdad, imposed a curfew beginning 8 p.m. Friday.

Two mortar shells later hit a SCIRI building on the edge of Sadr City, injuring two guards, witnesses said.

Read the rest at the Internatioanl Herald Tribune

Related Link:
Analysis: The Shi'ite power struggle escalates

Related Link:
Analysis: Iraq's Shiite political fissures widen