BAGHDAD (AFP) – Iraqi and US forces have detained 12 “rogue” members of radical cleric Moqtada al-Sadr’s Shiite militia allegedly behind bomb attacks and assassinations of Sunni Arabs, the US military said Tuesday.
The 12 were detained on Monday in a series of coordinated raids across Baghdad, a military statement said.
“Iraqi Special Operations Forces, with US Special Forces as advisors, conducted synchronised intelligence driven operations that detained 12 rogue Jaish al-Mahdi insurgents … in Baghdad,” it said.
“The detainees include eight high-level leaders linked to JAM (Jaish al-Mahdi) special groups that carry out attacks on Iraqi and coalition forces,” it added.
The US military accuses JAM, widely known as the Mahdi Army, of being behind unrelenting sectarian attacks against minority Sunni Arabs since vicious communal bloodletting broke out last year.
“The suspects include a brigade commander, battalion commander, two company commanders and one leader of an extra-judicial killing cell,” the military said.
The forces also captured several JAM cell members suspected of carrying out murders and bomb attacks, it added.
The military said the brigade commander was responsible for five groups under his control and transported bombs from Iran into Iraq.
He recently ordered a bomb attack “that caused the death of two US soldiers,” the military said.
“The suspect also reportedly ordered his JAM members to set up illegal checkpoints to hunt down and assassinate Sunni citizens.”
Sadr, who enjoys popular grassroot support among Iraqi Shiites, is a powerful political player in Iraq’s embattled government led by Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki.
His anti-American views have frequently seen his militia clashing with US soldiers since the US-led March 2003 invasion to topple Saddam Hussein.