BAGHDAD, Iraq - U.S. and Iraqi forces arrested one of Muqtada al-Sadr's top aides Friday in Baghdad, his office said, as pressure increased on the radical Shiite cleric's militia ahead of a planned security crackdown in the capital.It's hard work shooting, jailing, and torturing your friends, and at times like this Mr. Malaki can use all the encouragement he can get. So I proposed that President Bush crack down on some of his own extremist supporters. Round up James Dobson and his illiberal posse for a few hours of detention at an ActUp meeting house. Sentence Pat Robertson to 100 hours of community service excavating dinosaur bones in Montana.
Al-Sadr said in an interview with an Italian newspaper published Friday that the crackdown had already begun and that 400 of his men had been arrested. La Repubblica also quoted him as saying he fears for his life and stays constantly on the move.
The raid came as Defense Secretary Robert Gates began his second trip to
Iraq in less than a month, arriving in the southern city of Basra to consult with British and other allied commanders.
Sheik Abdul-Hadi al-Darraji, al-Sadr's media director in Baghdad, was captured and his personal guard was killed, according to another senior al-Sadr aide.
"We strongly condemn this cowardly act," said Sheik Abdul-Zahra al-Suweiadi.
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. It did not identify the detainee, but said two other suspects were detained by Iraqi forces for further questioning.
Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has pledged to crack down on Shiite militias as well as Sunni insurgents in a planned security operation. His reluctance to confront the Mahdi Army of al-Sadr, his political backer, has led to the failure of previous efforts to stem sectarian violence in Baghdad.
The War Against Religious Extremism® demands nothing less.