Gates in Iraq as Sadr aide detained
American and Iraqi forces arrested one of Muqtada al-Sadr's top aides Friday in Baghdad, his office said. The raid came as US Defense Secretary Robert Gates started his second trip to Iraq in less than a month, arriving in the southern city of Basra to meet with British and other allied commanders.
Al-Sadr said in an interview published Friday in Italy said the the government crackdown on his militia had already begun and that 400 of his men had been arrested. La Repubblica also quoted the Shiite leader as saying he fears for his life and stays constantly on the move.
In the interview with La Repubblica, al-Sadr said he is being targeted. "For this reason, I have moved my family to a secure location. I even have had a will drawn up, and I move continuously in a way that only few can know where I am," he was quoted as saying.
Sheik Abdul-Hadi al-Darraji, al-Sadr's media director in Baghdad, was captured and his personal guard died, according to another senior al-Sadr aide. The U.S. military said special Iraqi army forces operating with coalition advisers captured a high-level, illegal armed group leader in Baladiyat, an eastern neighborhood near al-Sadr's stronghold.
According to the AP, Iraq's Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has vowed to crack down on Shiite militias as well as Sunni groups in a planned security operation.
Gates, who met earlier with the leaders of Saudi Arabia and Qatar, said they had voiced concern about whether al-Maliki can deliver on his promises to rein in the violence.