The Iraqi government complained Friday when U.S. and Iraqi forces descended into a Baghdad mosque and detained a top aide to radical Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr. L.A. Times reporter Borzou Daragahi provides an update on attempts to stabilize the Iraqi capital.
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Borzou Daragahi, welcome. Tell us about this reported crackdown that's been going on, on elements of the Mahdi Army. There have been reports that 400 people have been arrested. What's going on?
BORZOU DARAGAHI, Los Angeles Times:
Well, Prime Minister Nouri Maliki, in an interview with the Los Angeles Times and a couple other news agencies this week, said that 400 Mahdi Army militia members had been arrested. He didn't specify in what period of time; he didn't specify where.
I'm sure that, over the past few months, 400 people have been arrested. They're often arrested and released, almost immediately, or they'll be held for a little while and let go.
There is, however, word of an imminent crackdown on Sadr City and other strongholds of the radical cleric Muqtada al-Sadr. And everyone is kind of bracing for that. Today, there was this arrest of a sheik, Sheik Darraji, who is a cleric and often acts as a Muqtada spokesman in Baghdad.
Now, this at least reported crackdown that's coming in Sadr City, who's leading that effort? Is it the Iraqis or the Americans?
Well, ostensibly it's the Iraqis. According to U.S. officials, the Iraqis have taken a lead role in this imminent crackdown. They have been the ones who have been planning the operations.
But the strategy, as most Iraqi and U.S. officials will say, was from Washington an attempt to crack down on the Shiite militias who are considered a major component in the sectarian civil war here.