The radical Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr has resurfaced in Iraq, delivering an anti-American sermon Friday after four months of lying low.

Sadr delivered the sermon at the Kufa mosque, calling for U.S. troops to leave Iraq as soon as possible and for an end to fighting between his Madhi Army militia and Iraqi security forces.

“I want to renew our demand for the departure of the occupation,” news agencies quoted him as telling a large crowd of supporters.

“I say to our Sunni brothers in Iraq that we are brothers and the occupier shall not divide us. They are welcome and we are ready to cooperate with them in all fields. This is my hand I stretch toward them.”

U.S. military and intelligence officials have in recent weeks suggested that Sadr had spent the previous four months in Iran, allegedly leaving the country just before the massive new security push in Baghdad.

His supporters have denied that he left the country, but he had not been seen since an October preaching session at the mosque in Kufa.

Officials on Friday said Sadr had quietly returned to Iraq about a week ago, heading back to his base of support in Kufa, near Najaf, the holy Shiite city south of Baghdad.

Sadr, 33, has had a long and tangled history in post-invasion Iraq. He is the son of a revered Shiite cleric killed by Saddam Hussein, and grew popular with some Iraqis in the months after the invasion by immediately condemning the U.S. presence. In 2004, his militia waged open war twice with American troops, before the violence was stemmed.

Last month, six government ministers aligned with Sadr left the Iraqi government in protest of its refusal to set a timetable for the withdrawal of American troops.

Sadr had called on his militia to lay down its arms in advance of the “surge” of thousands of U.S. and Iraqi troops in the capital. By and large, U.S. officials have reported the cease-fire has stayed in place. However, clashes with Shiite militiamen — whether “rogue” or aligned with Sadr — have occurred.

On Friday, Sadr called for his followers to practice a nonviolent response of sorts.

“Any fighting between our brothers in the Mahdi Army and the Iraqi army and police is forbidden,” he said. “I advise the dear brothers in the Mahdi Army to resort to peaceful means like picketing or demonstrating when attacked by bad people.”

It’s unclear what Sadr’s return will bode in Iraq. Some analysts said he is returning to bolster his political party in anticipation of elections; others said he is trying to rein in some of the splintering elements of his militia.

“I think he’s trying to consolidate his power base,” Lt. Gen. Raymond Odierno, the second-ranking commander of U.S. forces in Iraq, told the Washington Post in an interview Thursday night. “I think there’s been a little bit of cracking in the [Mahdi Army] organization.”

Whatever the case, Sadr’s sermon on Friday was not short of belligerent words.

“No, no for the devil. No, no for America. No, no for the occupation. No, no for Israel,” he chanted with the crowd.

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