Muqtada al-Sadr: We Reject America

Cleric gives fiery speech after ending 4-year exile
By Polly Davis Doig,  Newser Staff
Posted Jan 8, 2011 6:02 AM CST
Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr speaks during his first public appearance since returning from nearly four years of self-imposed exile in Najaf, south of Baghdad, Iraq, Saturday, Jan. 8, 2011. The powerful...   (Alaa al-Marjani)
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(Newser) – Muqtada al-Sadr returned to Iraq Thursday after a four-year exile, and his first speech back made it clear that absence hadn't made the Shiite cleric's heart grow fonder of the US. "Let the whole world hear that we reject America. No, no to the occupier," the fiery 37-year-old told a frenzied crowd of thousands, some of whom had waited outside his house for days, reports the AP.

"Our hands do not kill Iraqis. But we target only the occupier with all the means of resistance," al-Sadr said, though he backtracked enough to allow that Iraq's government should be allowed to boot American troops in a "suitable" way. If not, he said U S troops could be targeted before they're set to leave this year. "We listened to the speech, but heard nothing new," said a US embassy spokesman. Still, al-Sadr is a force to be reckoned with: His followers took 40 seats and eight leadership posts in last year's elections.

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