US and Iraqi forces swooped into a mosque complex in east Baghdad before dawn and detained a top aide to radical anti-American cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, the latest in a series of operations aimed at eviscerating the leadership of the Mahdi Army militia.
Friday's raid drew immediate fire from the Iraqi government, which said it had not been consulted. An aide to Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, who owes his job as Iraqi leader to al-Sadr's backing, said the operation was not part of a coming joint US-Iraq security drive.
Under the plan, to which U.S. President George W. Bush has committed an additional 21,500 American soldiers, US commanders have been promised a freer hand in rolling up both Sunni insurgents and Shiite militiamen.
"There was no coordination with the Iraqi political leadership and this arrest was not part of the new security plan," Sadiq al-Rikabi, the al-Maliki adviser, told Al-Arabiya television. "Coordination with the Iraqi political leadership is needed before conducting such operations that draw popular reactions."
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