KUFA, Iraq, (Reuters) – Fiery Iraqi Shi’ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr has cancelled plans for his followers to march on a destroyed Shi’ite mosque in the Sunni city of Samarra next week, a cleric said on Friday.
Asaad al-Nasirie, who is close to Sadr, quoted the anti-American firebrand as saying the government would not be able to protect marchers from attack. The march had been scheduled for July 5.
Nasirie was speaking during a sermon at a mosque in the Shi’ite city of Kufa, a Sadr stronghold.
Sadr, who has huge appeal among Iraq’s Shi’ite masses, made his call for the march in Samarra after suspected militants from Sunni Islamist al Qaeda blew up the two minarets of the revered al-Askari mosque on June 13.
On Thursday, a statement from Sadr’s office had insisted the march would go ahead.
Sadr’s followers would have been expected to travel from Baghdad as well as other Shi’ite cities in southern Iraq, leaving them vulnerable to attack as they pass through known Sunni Arab insurgent strongholds north of the capital to Samarra.