NPR logo Pro-Maliki Leaflets Dropped on Sadr City


Pro-Maliki Leaflets Dropped on Sadr City

An image of one of the leaflets dropped on Sadr City. hide caption

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An image of one of the leaflets dropped on Sadr City.

Iraqi Army helicopters dropped hundreds of leaflets with a message from Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki throughout Sadr City on Thursday night. The leaflets ask citizens to support government efforts to quell the insurgency there.

"We do urge everyone to do his responsibility and participate in imposing law, to cooperate with the government to do its job," Maliki's note says.

For more than a month, U.S. and Iraqi forces have conducted military operations against insurgents in Sadr City, a sprawling slum that is home to some 3 million people. Most of the insurgents in the fight are renegade members of the Mahdi Army, the militia group run by anti-American cleric Muqtada al Sadr.

But increasingly, more of the Mahdi Army rank-and-file members are joining the fight. A senior Mahdi Army commander says that about 600 of the 2,000 militia fighters under his command are now fighting with the renegades, what the American military calls the "special groups."

The commander says that while he is maintaining the eight-month-old cease-fire called by Sadr, many of his soldiers live in Sadr City and are ignoring the ceasefire. He notes that Sadr's ceasefire says the militia members can defend themselves, and that's what his men are doing.

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Maliki is trying to disband Sadr's militia and bring law and order to Sadr City. He says the area is infested with gangs and criminals. And it is the insurgents who are endangering civilians and preventing services there, he says.

The Americans, meanwhile, are controlling the southern third of Sadr City, in an effort to deny the fighters room to launch their rockets into the heavily fortified Green Zone, home to U.S. and Iraqi government offices. But the rocketing continues, with insurgents using longer-range rockets — or changing their firing locations.