Q: Is Sadr City, the neighborhood in Baghdad, really named after Muqtada al-Sadr, the anti-U.S. Shiite cleric? What’s up with that?

A: Actually, no, it is named after his father, Ayatollah Mohammed Sadek al-Sadr, who was an outspoken Shiite leader in a country run by Sunnis including Saddam Hussein.

The father was assassinated in 1999 with two of his sons; the younger al-Sadr was about 25 at the time. The deaths were blamed on Hussein and sparked uprisings in several cities that were tamped down by Hussein’s forces.

The young al-Sadr originally was seen as a lightweight, just a junior-level cleric, compared with his father. But he created a network of supporters and emerged as a leading symbol of Shiite defiance and militancy.

Days before Baghdad officially fell in April 2003, his forces in what is now Sadr City rose up, raiding police stations and weapon supplies. The neighborhood had been named Saddam City, and they renamed it Sadr City, after Muqtada al-Sadr’s father.

The young al-Sadr’s militia, known as the Mahdi Army, has had control of Sadr City, a poor, crowded area of about 2 million people.

Al-Sadr has taken a different tone in recent weeks. The Mahdi Army appeared to have set aside its weapons under government pressure to lend support to a plan to quell violence in Baghdad.

And this month, the militia agreed to let the government provide security for Shiite pilgrims heading to Karbala, south of Baghdad, to mark the 7th-century death of the Prophet Muhammad’s grandson. The militia has provided protection in the past. But hundreds were killed making the trip this month.

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