Dean Yates and Wisam Mohammed
Reuters
April 19, 2008

Shi’ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr on Saturday threatened an “open war” against the Iraqi government unless it halted a crackdown by Iraqi and U.S. security forces on his followers.

The specter of a full-scale uprising by Sadr sharply raises the stakes in his confrontation with Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, who has threatened to ban the anti-American cleric’s movement from political life unless he disbands his militia.

A rebellion by Sadr’s Mehdi Army militia — which has tens of thousands of fighters — could also reverse overall security gains at a time when U.S. forces are starting to leave Iraq.

“I’m giving the last warning and the last word to the Iraqi government — either it comes to its senses and takes the path of peace … or it will be (seen as) the same as the previous government,” Sadr said, referring to Saddam Hussein’s fallen regime, without elaborating.

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