A home grown opposition to al Sadr's thug army.
Could be good...but it also could be bad. I'm not sure having a half dozen independent "armies" running around Iraq is the path toward peace and democracy.
Still, it may represent a grass roots movement to recover their city from the hands of this maniac.
FOR the past month they have been the rude young pretenders, a rag-tag slum army ruffling the quiet dignity of Iraq’s holiest city.
For every day that the United States army fails to act on its threat to crush them, the Shiite militiamen of the radical cleric Muqtada al-Sadr have grown in confidence in their stronghold in Najaf.
Now, however, a shadowy resistance movement within might be about to succeed where the 2,500 US marines outside the city have failed.
In a deadly expression of feelings that until now were kept quiet, a group representing local residents is said to have killed at least five militiamen in the last four days.
The murders are the first sign of organised Iraqi opposition to Sadr’s presence and come amid simmering discontent at the havoc their lawless presence has wreaked.
The group calls itself the Thulfiqar Army, after a twin-bladed sword said to be used by the Shiite martyr Imam Ali, to whom Najaf’s vast central mosque is dedicated.
Residents say leaflets bearing that name have been circulated in the city in the last week, urging Sadr’s al-Mahdi army to leave immediately or face imminent death.
"I haven’t seen the leaflets myself, but I heard about it when I was down there two days ago," said Ahmed Abbas, a carpenter from Najaf who visited Baghdad yesterday.
"It has got some of the Mahdi guys quite worried, I tell you. They are banding together more, when normally you would see them happily walking on the streets alone. I think their commanders have ordered them to do that."
As is the case with most fledgling resistance groups, further details are sketchy. Nobody knows yet who is really behind the group, if the deaths of Mahdi men are its handiwork or, indeed, if it really exists.