As reported earlier, on June 17, 2008 a group of Mahdi Army fighters set off a bomb in the Hurriya district of Baghdad that killed over 60 people. According to the U.S. military, the main motivations behind the attack were to maintain control of the neighborhood and attempt to reignite the sectarian fighting by trying to get the residents to blame Sunnis for the car bomb. This was not the first time Sadrists had resorted to such tactics. In November 2007 a four man group of militiamen carried out a similar attack, setting off a bomb in another market in the capitol. The purpose of the attack was the same as the recent one, to sow fear and make Shiites look towards Sadr’s militia for protection.
The Sadrists were at their peak during the 2006-2007 period when Sunnis and Shiites were fighting for control of central Iraq. Thousands of Shiites flocked to their cause either out of fear, looking for revenge, religious motivations, or simply to take advantage of others in the process. It’s estimate that the Mahdi Army swelled to 60,000 at the time. Sadr’s group was never well organized and began factionalizing at the same time they were growing. Today his military wing is in tatters after the series of government operations that are still on-going.
International Crisis Group, “Iraq’s Civil War, The Sadrists And The Surge,” 2/7/08
Reid, Robert, “U.S. Blames Shiites in New Iraq Violence,” Associated Press, 11/24/07
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