Prominent Iraqi Shiite cleric condemns arrest of Sunni MP
Muqtada Sadr called for unity between Iraqi Muslims
A prominent Iraqi Shiite cleric called on Saturday for the army to fight terrorism in the western Anbar province and not its people, referring to the arrest earlier of a Sunni MP in the governorate.
Muqtada Sadr - who made his announcement shortly after Iraqi security forces raided the house of Ahmed al-Alwani, a Sunni MP, killing the lawmaker's brother and bodyguards - also called for the army to "stay out of [Prime Minister Nouri] al-Maliki’s political disputes,” according to Al Arabiya News Channel.
Earlier on Saturday, Alwani, a well-known supporter of Sunni anti-government protesters, was arrested on terrorism charges after security forces raided his house, igniting clashes that killed his brother and five guards.
The gunfight between Alwani’s guards and Iraqi soldiers in the Ramadi district in Anbar were exclusively filmed by Al Arabiya News Channel’s Iraq correspondent.
During his televised statement, Sadr also said that the Iraqi army should be fighting for the defense and national unity of the country – also calling for harmony between Sunni and Shiite Muslims in the increasingly sectarian nation.
Commenting on Sadr's statement to Al Arabiya News Channel, Anbar province MP Walid al-Mohamadi said that Sadr’s declaration comes primarily from national interest but also from “his care for the people of the Anbar province.”
“He [Sadr] is aware that there is an ongoing campaign of sectarian cleansing in Anbar,” Mohamadi added.
Mohamadi added that “they want a clear overview of all components of Malki’s political direction, and follow the example of Muqtada al-Sadr.”
Meanwhile, tribes in Anbar have given Maliki a 12-hour ultimatum to free Alwani, Al Arabiya's Iraq correspondent reported.
Since last December, Iraq's Sunni minority has been staging protests against what they claim is second-class treatment at the hands of the country's Shiite majority, according to the Associated Press.
The protests have mostly focused around the Anbar province and other Sunni areas in the north.
Violence in Iraq has reached levels not seen since 2008, when the country was emerging from a brutal period of sectarian killings.
Since the beginning of the year, more than 6,700 people have been killed in the sectarian violence.