NAJAF, Iraq – Anti-American cleric Muqtada al-Sadr said Saturday his followers in Iraq were still resisting the U.S. “enemy” with all means, including military. But he tempered his fiery words by saying the new Iraqi government should be given a chance to get American forces out of the country in a “suitable” way.
In his first speech since returning from almost four years of self-imposed exile in Iran, the 37-year-old cleric whose Shiite militias once ruthlessly pursued U.S. troops and terrorized Iraqi Sunnis stopped short of explicitly urging violence against Americans. But he left open the possibility that some 50,000 U.S. troops set to leave Iraq at the end of this year could be targeted.
“Let the whole world hear that we reject America. No, no to the occupier,” al-Sadr said during his 35-minute speech in Najaf, a holy Shiite city about 100 miles south of Baghdad. “We don’t kill Iraqis — our hands do not kill Iraqis. But we target only the occupier with all the means of resistance,” he added.
“We are still resisters and we are still resisting the occupier militarily and culturally and by all the means of resistance.”