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The New Arab

Iraqi officials dismiss Shia cleric's threat to US troops

Sadr called on his supporters on Sunday to target US troops in Iraq [Getty]

Date of publication: 18 July, 2016

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Officials in Iraq have brushed off threats made by prominent Shia cleric Moqtada al-Sadr that additional US troops deployed in Iraq would be 'targets'.

Officials in Iraqi have brushed off threats made by prominent Shia cleric Moqtada al-Sadr that additional US troops deployed in Iraq would be "targets".

Sadr called on his supporters on Sunday to target US troops being sent to help support the offensive to recapture Mosul from the Islamic State [IS] group.

Sadr's remarks were made on his official site after he was asked to comment on US Defence Secretary Ash Carter's announcement last week that the Pentagon will deploy 560 more troops to Iraq.

"These types of statements are made purely for media publicity. US or British troops – or any other force – that have been allowed to enter Iraq have the right to defend themselves if attacked," Colonel Firas Hussain of the Nineveh Operations Command told The New Arab.

"We have been hearing similar remarks from Sadr for years that end up being empty threats."

Several prominent Shia armed militias have also condemned the announcement of additional US troops heading to the country.

     
      Sadr's supporters fought against US troops ifter the invasion [Getty]

A source in the US embassy in Iraq refused to comment on Sadr's threat but said that the hundreds more troops being sent would be "serving the Iraqi people".

"The presence of US troops are part of the international coalition's efforts to help Iraqis end terrorism and bring about peace. [The deployment] has been approved by Prime Minister Abadi," the source said.

The new troops will bring the total number of US soldiers in Iraq to around 4,650.

Sadr, who has the support of tens of thousands of Iraqis, had fought US troops during their 2003 invasion of Iraq with the Mahdi Army.

The Mahdi Army was disbanded in 2008 and replaced by the Peace Brigades, who fought under a government-led umbrella group to ward off IS militants from the Iraqi capital city of Baghdad in 2014.

The Shia cleric is also heading a protest movement against the Iraqi government calling for reform and an end to corruption. His supporters broke into Baghdad's fortified Green Zone area in April, storming parliament.

Other Iran-backed Shia armed groups also pledged to fight US soldiers in Iraq, but the only casualties US forces have suffered since returning to the country in 2014 have been at the hands of IS militants.

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