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Iraq militia chief says won't hit back after bombs

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Baghdad, Mar 13: Iraq's radical Shi'ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr said today (Mar 13, 2006) he would not order his militia to strike Sunni al Qaeda militants after yesterday's bloody bombing of his Baghdad stronghold because that would mean civil war.

''I could order the Mehdi army to root out the terrorists and fundamentalists but this would lead us into civil war and we don't want that,'' the youthful Sadr told a news conference in the Shi'ite holy city of Najaf.

At least 46 people were killed and 204 were wounded in east Baghdad's crowded Sadr City neighbourhood on Sunday when up to six car bombs exploded in quick succession.

The attack raised new fears of Shi'ite reprisals and all-out sectarian warfare, two and half weeks after the bombing of a major Shi'ite shrine sparked days of bloodletting, including assaults on Sunni mosques and homes, that killed hundreds.

Returning to a theme that has previously been common ground with Sunni insurgents and appeared to give his followers some protection from them, Sadr renewed his criticism of the US forces, against which the Mehdi Army rose up twice in 2004.

''I hold the occupiers responsible for this tragedy,'' Sadr said.

"I consider them the ones who ordered it".

Reuters

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