BAGHDAD (AFP) – US forces in Iraq captured a Shiite militant and killed two others, accusing them of ignoring cleric Moqtada al-Sadr’s order to freeze the activities of his Mahdi Army militia, the military said Saturday.
Police said American troops also arrested a senior police officer from Sadr City, Sadr’s Baghdad bastion, on Friday evening.
The military said US troops carried out an operation early on Saturday in the village of Fawwaliyah in the restive Diyala province, northeast of the capital, to capture the Shiite militant.
“The operation was targeting a splinter group leader, who was not honouring Moqtada al-Sadr’s pledge to cease attacks and who was involved in weapons procurement, kidnapping and explosively-formed penetrator attacks,” the military said in a statement.
Without revealing the identity of the militant, the statement said he had ties with an Iranian intelligence cell.
During the operation the target of the raid surrendered but two others were killed because they “failed to comply with the instructions and warning shots,” it added.
Another 14 suspected militants were also detained at the site.
“We continue to support the government of Iraq in welcoming the commitment by Moqtada al-Sadr to stop attacks and we will continue to show restraint in dealing with those who honour his pledge,” military spokesman Major Winfield Danielson said.
“However, as this operation illustrates, not all are honouring his pledge and some continue to conduct violent crimes against Iraqi citizens and security forces. Coalition forces will continue to take the necessary action against these criminals to protect the Iraqi people from their violent actions.”
On Monday Sadr had warned his fighters to obey the current six-month suspension of his militia’s activities or face being branded as traitors.
“Some groups within the Jaish al-Mahdi are not following the suspension order,” the cleric said.
“We are urging everybody to implement the suspension at all the levels or they will be fired from the movement. There is no place for traitors.”
The US military claims that many Sadr militants have split from the main force and are engaged in “criminal” actions, including killing Sunnis.
Sadr, whose movement is the most powerful popular force in Iraq, declared the six-month freeze on his militia’s activities — including a halt to attacks on US-led troops — in August.
On Friday, American troops also arrested senior Sadr City police officer Lieutenant Colonel Imad Takleef Sayhood, a police source said.
“He was arrested in his office in Sadr City,” the source and witnesses in Sadr City said, adding that Sayhood was believed to have close ties with rogue Mahdi Army militants.