*** FILE *** Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr talks to the media in his house in the holy Shiite city of Najaf, Iraq, Thursday, Aug. 25, 2005. Al-Sadr announced Friday Feb. 22, 2008 that he will extend a cease-fire order to his Shiite Mahdi Army by another six months, giving Iraq a chance to continue its fragile recovery from brutal sectarian violence. (AP Photo/Alla Al-Marjani, File)
Baghdad (AP) Radical Shiite cleric Muqtada Al-Sadr has spoken and his powerful Mahdi army militia in Iraq will be reigned-in for at least another six months.
In a message read by clerics during prayer services today, Al-Sadr announced that he is extending a cease-fire he ordered in August. The action gives Iraq a chance to continue its fragile recovery from brutal sectarian violence.
Al-Sadr's decision last summer was one of three critical steps that have been widely credited with curbing violence in Iraq and bringing the death toll down more than 60 percent in recent months.
The others were the U.S.. troop surge and Sunni fighters switching their allegiance from Al-Qaida in Iraq to the U.S.
Some of Al-Sadr's followers had been angered by continuing American military raids against Shiite splinter groups. They wanted the cease-fire to end.
If the Mahdi army militia had been once again unleashed, Iraq violence could have increased dramatically.