January 3, 2020 / 7:29 AM / 18 days ago

Iraq's Sadr mourns Soleimani, says followers ready to defend Iraq - statement

FILE PHOTO: Iraqi Shi'ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, who's bloc came first, meets with Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, who's political bloc came third in a May parliamentary election, in Najaf, Iraq June 23, 2018. REUTERS/Alaa al-Marjani

BAGHDAD (Reuters) - Populist Iraqi Shi’ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr mourned on Friday the killing of Iranian Quds Force commander Qassem Soleimani and Iraqi militia leaders in a U.S. air strike in Baghdad and said his militias were ready to defend Iraq.

“As the patron of the patriotic Iraqi resistance I give the order for all mujahideen, especially the Mehdi Army, Promised Day Brigade, and all patriotic and disciplined groups to be ready to protect Iraq,” he said in a statement.

Sadr, who positions himself as a nationalist rejecting both U.S. and Iranian interference in Iraq, called on all sides to behave with “wisdom and shrewdness” however.

Reporting by Ahmed Aboulenein; Editing by Maha El Dahan

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