Shiite militia agrees to lay down arms and join in political process

An IRANIAN-backed Shiite militia that carried out deadly attacks on Nato troops has agreed to lay down its arms and join the political process, the Iraqi official in charge of reconciling with the country’s armed groups said yesterday.

Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s adviser for reconciliation, Amer al-Khuzaie, said the group, Asaib Ahl al-Haq, has agreed not to use its weapons and to enter into political dialogue.

He welcomed the group’s decision to play a constructive role in Iraqi politics and said the group plans to run in the next parliamentary elections under a new name.

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“They want to join the political process… and give up armed struggle,” al-Khuzaie said. “The government will not buy up the group’s weapons, but we are ready to take them if they want us to.”

A senior member of Asaib Ahl al-Haq said in an interview this week that the group wants to ally with other Shiite groups to run in provincial and parliamentary elections, but he did not say the group would disarm completely.

Asaib Ahl al-Haq, or Band of the Righteous, is an armed group split off from radical Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr’s own political movement that formed to fight the American presence in Iraq.

It was one of a group of Shiite militias backed by Iran that carried out lethal attacks against US. bases in June, the deadliest month in two years for American forces in Iraq.

Asaib Ahl al-Haq announced its independence from al-Sadr’s movement in 2008 and turned down several calls by the cleric to rejoin his group.