Members Of ANTI-U.S. Cleric’s Movement Want Cease-Fire To End

BAGHDAD (AP) — Influential members of Iraqi Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr’s movement are urging the leader not to extend a cease-fire when it expires next month.

In August, al-Sadr ordered his militia to stop fighting for six months. U.S officials say it’s been a major factor in a sharp reduction of violence across the country.

The anti-U.S. cleric has threatened to end the cease-fire unless the Iraqi government gets rid of “criminal gangs” within security forces that he claims are targeting his followers. Al-Sadr’s political commission, some lawmakers and senior officials are urging him to follow through on the threat.

Mahdi Army militiamen fought U.S. troops for much of 2004, and al-Sadr has tirelessly called for the withdrawal of American forces from Iraq.