The radical Iraqi Shia cleric, Moqtada Sadr, has suspended his Mehdi Army militia for six months in order to "rehabilitate" it, an aide has said.
Sheikh Hazim al-Araji said the re-organisation would "safeguard its ideological image", in a statement broadcast on Iraqi television.
Correspondents say the Mehdi Army has recently broken into factions.
Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr has ordered a six-month suspension of activities by his Mahdi Army militia in order to reorganize the force, an aide said Wednesday.
The aide, Sheik Hazim al-Araji, said on Iraqi state television that the goal was to ``rehabilitate'' the organization, which has reportedly broken into factions, some of which the U.S. maintains are trained and supplied by Iran.
``We declare the freezing of the Mahdi Army without exception in order to rehabilitate it in a way that will safeguard its ideological image within a maximum period of six months starting from the day this statement is issued,'' al-Araji said, reading from a statement by al-Sadr.
IHT:The disintegration of our foes is a good thing.
A spokesman for al-Sadr, Ahmed al-Shaibani, denied that the Mahdi Army was involved in the Karbala fighting. Al-Sadr called for an independent inquiry into the clashes and urged his supporters to cooperate with the authorities "to calm the situation down," al-Shaibani said.IC: [SADR:]
Tensions have been rising in southern Iraq as rival Shiite groups maneuver for power, especially in the oil-rich area around Basra, Iraq's second-largest city.
"I direct the Mahdi Army to suspend all its acitivites for six months until it is restructured in a way that helps honour the principles for which it is formed," Sadr said in a statement issued by his office in the city of Najaf.
I hope we take advantage of this "break" in his force resolution.