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Radical Cleric Orders Militia To Leave Iraqi Shrine

27 August 2004 -- Radical cleric Muqtada al-Sadr has ordered his militia to disarm and leave the Imam Ali shrine in Al-Najaf, a day after a deal was reached to end three weeks of violence in the city.

The order was made in a broadcast read over the loudspeakers of the Iman Ali shrine on al-Sadr's behalf today.

News agencies report that some militants loyal to al-Sadr handed in their weapons and changed into civilian clothes, but others remained armed.

Thousands of Iraqis have flocked to the sacred shrine today.

Late yesterday, Iraq's top Shi'a cleric, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, persuaded al-Sadr to accept a deal to end the rebellion in Al-Najaf.

The plan calls for al-Sadr's Imam Al-Mahdi Army to leave the shrine and for U.S. forces to pull out of the city, with security being turned over to Iraqi police.

The Iraqi government accepted the deal and said it will not arrest al-Sadr.


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