February 8th, 2008 10:05 EST
Suspected Shi'ite Militia Leader Captured
The U.S. military says coalition forces have captured an alleged Shi`ite militia leader and three other suspects during a raid south of Baghdad.
A statement Friday says the arrests took place late Thursday as part of an operation aimed at disrupting criminal networks in the Mashru area.
The statement says the main suspect was believed to be a "special groups" leader and was reported to be linked to senior criminal leaders involved in attacks on Iraqi security and coalition forces. The U.S. military uses the term "special groups" to describe Shi`ite militias allegedly backed by Iran that have broken ranks with the Mahdi Army of radical Shi`ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr.
A unilateral six-month cease-fire called by al-Sadr last August is due to expire at the end of this month.
U.S. commanders credit the truce as a major factor behind a 60 percent drop in violent attacks in Iraq since June. They also say they will continue to target rogue Mahdi Army units that refuse to follow al-Sadr`s truce.
On Thursday, al-Sadr ordered his militia to maintain a cease-fire after U.S. and Iraqi forces raided the group`s stronghold in Baghdad. Al-Sadr`s office in the city of Najaf said militiamen who engage in violence during the truce will no longer be part of the Mahdi Army.
Some information for this report was provided by AFP, AP and Reuters