Iraqi Shi’ite cleric threatens U.S. troops arriving to fight ISIL

Special to

Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty

Shi’ite Muslim cleric Muqtada al-Sadr has threatened to target fresh U.S. troops coming to Iraq to help battle extremist Islamic State (IS) militants.

Muqtada al-Sadr: U.S. troops 'are a target for us.'
Muqtada al-Sadr: U.S. troops ‘are a target for us.’

Sadr, whose Mahdi Army battled U.S. forces in 2003, said on his official website that the 560 new U.S. troops that will soon be dispatched to Iraq to aid in efforts to retake the northern city of Mosul “are a target for us.”

The Mahdi Army was disbanded in 2008 and replaced by his Peace Brigades, which helped push back IS forces from areas near Baghdad in 2014 along with Iraqi government troops.

Sadr also leads a protest movement whose demonstrators storm the Iraqi capital’s heavily fortified Green Zone government district twice this year.

The new U.S. troop deployment was announced on July 11 by U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter.

The extra troops are expected to arrive in the coming weeks and will raise the number of U.S. forces in Iraq to about 4,650.