Al-Sadr Tells Mahdi Army to Stand Down
Cleric orders six-month suspension of activity to reorganize
By Sam Gale Rosen,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 29, 2007 10:14 AM CDT
An Iraqi soldier stands guard in the Shiite holy city of Najaf, 160 kilometers (100 miles) south of Baghdad, Iraq, Thursday, July 26, 2007, in front of a mural depicting revered Shiites, cleric Mohammed...   (Associated Press)
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(Newser) – Radical Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr has called for a six-month suspension of activity by his Mahdi Army to reorganize the force. The hostile group has splintered into multiple factions recently, some of which may be trained and supplied by Iran.

The order comes after bloody clashes in the Shiite holy city of Karbala; al-Sadr, who has repeatedly denounced violence against US troops, denies that the Mahdi Army was involved in the fighting there, and is urging his followers to cooperate with authorities to defuse the situation. He says the freeze was timed to "safeguard the ideological image" of the group.