Thursday, February 15, 2007

Mehdi Army Leaving Iraq

The Mehdi army continues to flee:

BAGHDAD (Reuters) - Radical Shi'ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr has ordered heads of his Mehdi Army militia to leave Iraq and asked the government to arrest "outlaws" under a U.S.- backed crackdown, Iraq's president said on Thursday.

President Jalal Talabani made the remarks after Iraq closed its borders with Iran and Syria and as U.S. and Iraqi troops tightened their grip on Baghdad, patrolling neighborhoods and setting up checkpoints that searched even official convoys.

Insurgents defied a sweep by U.S. and Iraqi soldiers of the volatile southern, mainly Sunni, Doura district, exploding two car bombs that killed four people. A bomb planted on a bus in the Mehdi Army stronghold of Sadr City killed three people.

Talabani said he was unaware of Sadr's whereabouts. The U.S. military has said the anti-American cleric is in Iran, but his aides insist he is in Iraq's holy Shi'ite city Najaf. An Iraqi government official said he was in Tehran, but only for a short visit.