Sunday, February 24, 2008

Shiite Cleric Announces 6-month Cease-fire

Powerful Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr opted Friday to keep the cease-fire order for his Mahdi Army militia in place for another six months, a step that will hold down U.S. and Iraqi casualties while bolstering al-Sadr's importance as a political player as Iraqi factions jostle for power. Opening a sealed statement from the firebrand leader, scores of Shiite clerics around the country read his message at Friday prayer services. In al-Sadr's Baghdad stronghold of Sadr City, thousands of men sat and listened attentively to the statement as green and black banners - symbols of his movement - waved in a brisk wind. The freeze was extended until mid-August.

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