Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki said 400 fighters from a key backer of the Shiite-led government have been arrested, and a government spokesman said Thursday the U.S. is not giving Iraqi security forces enough money for training and equipment. Al-Maliki's claim sought to address doubts about his willingness to take on the Shiite militiamen, especially the Mahdi army that is loyal to his key supporter, the radical cleric Muqtada al-Sadr. Many of the militiamen are believed responsible for much of the sectarian violence in Baghdad in the past year.
A Baghdad Mahdi Army commander said U.S. and Iraqi troops launched a major campaign Tuesday in Um al-Maalef, a Shiite neighborhood in south Baghdad.
"They detained every man who was able to carry weapons. We heard from our people in the area that about 400 people were detained," said the militia commander on condition of anonymity because senior figures in the group are not permitted to give their names.
He said that in December U.S. troops had killed one of the Mahdi Army's top commanders, known as Abu al-Sudour, in Sadr City.