In the wake of this weekâ€™s rioting in Karbala, Mahdi Army leader and radical Shiâ€™ite cleric Muqtada al-Sadrordered his followers to suspend violent activity for the next six months. One of the focuses of the suspension is to eliminate "rogue elements" from the militia in an increasingly competitive southern Iraq. This tactic apparently has already borne fruit as a previously unknown group has come forward with an unverified statement that rejects the temporary truce and claims they are not covered by the order.
According to Iraq Slogger, they call themselves the "Free Sadr Brigades in All Iraq." In other circles, they are also known as the "Free Manâ€™s Brigade." The group derives their name not from Muqtada al-Sadr but from his father, the late cleric Muhammad Sadiq al-Sadr. While they respect the younger al-Sadr, they say that the "young [Shi’ite] cleric does not enjoy the authority to order the Mahdi Army to “freeze” its activity."
As well as rejecting the suspension order, Iraq Slogger is reporting that the Free Sadr Brigades also accuse Iran of interfering in Iraq and suggest that the recent clashing in Karbala is part of a pro-Iranian conspiracy. They complain that the shrine protection forces are suspiciously distinct from any Iraqi security forces and feel that the forces are under Iranian direction. The Free Sadr Brigades also note that the situation is reminiscent of a revolt following the 1991 Gulf War, in which many Shiâ€™ites were ruthlessly killed by the Saddam regime. They would like the United Nations, the Organization of the Islamic Conference, and human rights groups to step in and determine what actually is going on.