Japanese troops could be targeted: al-Sadr loyalist

Kyodo

Japanese troops in the southern Iraq city of Samawah could be targeted for attack by Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr’s militia if they appear to be cooperating with the U.S.-led occupation force, an al-Sadr loyalist said Tuesday, adding, however, that he also wants the troops to launch some big projects.

“If it is proved that they are the occupation force or they are working (with) the occupation force . . . yes, we will (attack) them,” Ghazi al-Zargani, representative of the office of al-Sadr’s supporters, told Kyodo News in an interview in Arabic.

At the same time, al-Zargani expressed hope that the Ground Self-Defense Force troops do more than what they are currently doing in Samawah.

More than 500 GSDF troops have been deployed since mid-January to provide clean water, medical aid and help in repairing roads and public facilities in the city.

“Japan is a famous, big country and it has great technology. We need help from them to reconstruct Samawah. But not simple projects like painting the wall of a school or renovating a small road, which any country can do, but big projects,” he said.

Al-Zargani said he is prepared to talk with Japanese officials over the future of Samawah.

He also denied that the spate of attacks in Samawah and its vicinity last month near the GSDF base was perpetrated by the Mahdi Army militia loyal to al-Sadr, as alleged by the local police.

“Maybe former Ba’ath party members or robbers did it under the name of the al-Mahdi Army,” he said.