BAGHDAD – A renegade Mahdi Army militia commander is responsible for the kidnapping Sunday of 10 Shiite and Sunni tribal leaders, according to intelligence reports received by the Multi-National Force in Iraq.
Arkan Hasnawi, identified as a former brigade commander in Jaysh Al Mahdi, was behind the kidnappings, which took place in the Diyala Province as the chiefs were returning from a meeting in Baghdad with a representative of Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, the reports said.
One Sunni sheik was killed in the attack. The others remain missing.
A statement released by the Multi-National Force said: “Hasnawi’s actions clearly demonstrate he has chosen to dishonor Muqtada Al Sadr’s cease fire order and that he has joined forces with Iranian-supported Special Groups that are rejecting Muqtada al Sadr’s directions to embrace fellow Iraqis."
In August, radical Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr ordered his Mahdi Army fighters to law down their arms for up to six months in an attempt to stop attacks and reduce violence in the region.
But many disgruntled members of al-Sadr's Mahdi Army who are dissatisfied with the cease-fire order have broken off to form their own groups, which the U.S. military says are funded by the Iranian government, which Iran has denied.
Hasnawi and his associates “continue to intimidate and terrorize innocent Iraqi citizens, taking actions that mirror the tactics used by Al Qaeda in Iraq,“ the intelligence reports said.