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Wednesday, March 14, 2007

U.S. military says al-Sadr remains in Iran

BAGHDAD (AP) — The U.S. military spokesman in Iraq said on Wednesday that all indications showed that radical Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr remained in Iranian exile as of 24 hours ago.

The anti-American religious leader, who heads the Mahdi Army militia, was first reported by the Americans to be absent from Iraq on Feb. 13, when the latest U.S.-Iraq security drive opened in Baghdad.

"He's a very significant part of this political process. We do continue to track his whereabouts," Maj. Gen. William B. Caldwell said at a briefing to mark the end of the first month of the security drive.

The spokesman expressed particular concern about a spike last week in the number of what he called "high-profile" car bombings.

"If the high-profile car bombs can be stopped or brought down to a much lower level, we'll just see an incredible difference in the city overall. Murders and executions have come down by over 50%. ... But the high-profile car bombs is the one we're really focused on because that's what will start that whole cycle of violence again," Caldwell said.
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