US troops arrest 32 Al-Sadr followers

22 October 2003
US soldiers helping local police in Karbala on 21 October arrested 32 followers of outspoken Shia cleric Moqtada al-Sadr. The men, who had sought refuge in the Al-Mukhayam mosque on 14 October after a gun battle with followers of rival US-supporting clerics, were found with a stash of illegal weapons, said US military spokesman George Krivo. 'These are criminal elements,' Krivo added.

Al-Sadr remains a thorn in Washington's side, and in recent weeks his followers have been involved in numerous clashes and demonstrations. Al-Sadr is believed to control a militia of about 10,000 men. 'We will not turn a blind eye to the militias,' Krivo said on 19 October. ' Our intent is to deal with them with as little bloodshed as possible. But, the alternative, to let these criminal gangs rule the country, is not viable.' (MEED 15:10:03)

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