London, Asharq Al-Awsat – In response to the claim that the Shia cleric Muqtada al Sadr is present in the Iranian city of Qom, Asmaa al Mousawi, leading member of the Al Sadr political bloc in Iraq, told Asharq Al-Awsat, “We can neither confirm nor deny this information and we cannot discuss the whereabouts of Sayyed Muqtada al Sadr for security reasons.”
A reliable Iraqi source based in Qom told Asharq Al-Awsat Friday, “Al Sadr is held in a house affiliated to Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps. He is isolated from others; nobody is allowed to see him and he is not permitted to leave the house.” The source added, “Only a very small number of people, who I can count on the fingers of one hand, are allowed to see him.”
The source, a student of Islamic jurisprudence [Fiqh] at the Qom Hawza said, “Muqtada al Sadr’s phone number had been given to a small number of his close associates however this number has been cut off completely.”
The source, who spoke to Asharq Al-Awsat on condition of anonymity for security reasons, indicated that “Over three weeks ago, al Sadr had returned to Iraq and was secretly staying with an associate in Najaf but he quickly returned to Qom when the Iraqi government intensified [the offensives] on the Sadrist current and the Mehdi Army.”
“Iranian politicians in Qom openly criticize al Sadr’s presence because it is the cause of many problems for Iran especially regarding Iran-Iraq ties, which numerous Iranian bodies strive to develop. One of al Sadr’s associates who is a member of the Sadrist bloc told me in confidence that Sayyed Muqtada al Sadr had been held in Iran and cannot do anything without the permission of Iranian security authorities,” added the source.
Asmaa al Mousawi, a Sadrist leader, told Asharq Al-Awsat by phone from Baghdad, Friday, “We can neither confirm nor deny this information; we do reject any information that discusses the whereabouts of Sayyed Muqtada al Sadr as he travels around many places.”
She added, “There are threats against Sayyed [Muqtada al Sadr] from different political parties that do not agree with the principles of the Sadrist trend.” She denied that al Sadr may be targeted by the Iraqi government or the American forces: “I do not believe that the occupying American forces would run the risk or arresting al Sadr.”