Najaf (Iraq) (AFP) – Powerful Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr Wednesday voiced opposition to US military advisers who have begun meeting with Iraqi commanders, and warned that his supporters would “shake the ground” in combatting militants.
“We will shake the ground under the feet of ignorance and extremism,” he said, referring to Sunni insurgents who have overrun a swathe of territory in the past two weeks, in a televised speech from the Shiite holy city of Najaf.
He added that he only supported “providing international support from non-occupying states for the army of Iraq“.
The cleric’s remarks came days after fighters loyal to him paraded with weapons in the Sadr City area of north Baghdad, vowing to fight a major militant offensive that has alarmed the world and threatens to tear Iraq apart.
Iraq’s flagging security forces, which were swept aside by the initial offensive but have since at least somewhat recovered, have already been joined by some Shiite fighters, and thousands more are ready to take part.
Sadr’s Mahdi Army militia, which battled US forces for years when American troops were stationed in Iraq during their country’s nearly nine-year war, remains officially inactive, but fighters loyal to the cleric have nevertheless vowed to combat the militant advance.