HomeFeaturesDailyBriefingsRapidReconSpecial ReportsAbout Us

al-Sadr's Mahdi Army Joining Hizballah's Fight

The word out of Baghdad is that Muqtada al-Sadr's Mahdi Army appears ready to join fight, recruiting and training Iraqi men to fight alongside Hizballah in southern Lebanon.

"We are choosing the men right now," said Abu Mujtaba, who works in the loosely organized following of radical Shi'ite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr. "We are preparing the right men for the job."

Mr. Mujtaba, who was interviewed in Baghdad, said some of the men have had special training but did not specify what kind.

Sheik al-Sadr's black-clad armed militia numbers in the thousands, operates throughout central and southern Iraq and is thought to be responsible for numerous killings of Sunnis.

But it appears that it is not only the Iranian-backed Shi'ite radical al-Sadr that is rushing to help fight Israel. His own Sunni competition in Iraq appears loathe to be outdone in that arena.

A rival Sunni cleric, Abdul Rahman al-Duleimi, said he knew about the militia's recruiting effort and that he had appealed to his own followers to fight Israel.

"We know that the Mahdi militia is on this issue since the Lebanon-Israeli crisis started," said Sheik al-Duleimi, whose house in Baghdad contains a large portrait of former ruler Saddam Hussein. The cleric is not related to Adnan al-Dulaimi, also a Sunni cleric and leader of a major faction in parliament.

A sign that the war is already widening beyond Israel, Hizballah, Iran and Syria, the hatred of Israel runs deep and wide.