CAIRO, Egypt – The radical Iraqi Shiite cleric that the United States has labeled as an "outlaw" said on Monday that Iraqis were not afraid to die and would stand up to America's military might.
In a signed statement, Muqtada al-Sadr (search) demanded coalition forces stop attacks Iraqis and cease arrests of those suspected of involvement in the worsening insurgency inside Iraq.
"They [the U.S.-led forces] have the money, weapons and huge numbers, but these things are not going to weaken our will because God is with us," according to the statement, which was sent to The Associated Press by the Qatar-based satellite TV station al-Jazeera (search).
"Tell them [coalition forces] that we don't fear death and martyrdom gives us dignity from God," the statement said.
The United States announced Monday that an Iraqi judge had issued a murder arrest warrant for al-Sadr's over his alleged involvement in the April 2003 murder of a rival Shiite cleric.
Violent demonstrations by his supporters in at least four Iraqi cities on Sunday took the lives of 52 Iraqis, eight U.S. soldiers and a Salvadoran soldier in one of the deadliest days since the U.S.-led invasion.
Al-Sadr, who was holed up Monday in a mosque in the city of Kufa (search), south of Baghdad (search), surrounded by armed followers, said in the statement that captured former Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein (search) should stand trial and that a new Iraqi government should be created without involvement from outside forces.
Al-Sadr also demanded the coalition put on trial coalition soldiers who have committed "crimes" against Iraqis. He was apparently referring to troops who have killed or injured Iraqi civilians but have been cleared of any wrongdoing.