Sadr supporters rally over US troops in Iraq threatening to take up arms if US troops stay beyond year-end deadline.
"They have a message aimed at Americans: if you stay beyond the deadline set by the SOFA agreement, the security agreement signed between the US and Iraq - if they stay beyond that date which is 31 of December, the end of this year, the Mahdi army will resume its military activities and they wiill battle US forces," Al Saleh said. 'Sign for worry' Al Saleh said some protesters who spoke off camera said they have their weapons at home and that they were ready "at any moment that the cleric Muqtada al-Sadr gives his orders", to pick up arms and "fight the Americans". "... this is a sign for worry to the Iraqi government and to the US military," Saleh said. "We actually received a statement of a senior US military general here in Iraq [saying that] it's no comfort that an illegal militia threatens to reactivate its forces and start bloodshed and fighting." Al-Sadr, said to be in his 30s, gained wide popularity among Shias in Iraq in the months after the US-led invasion of 2003, when his Mahdi Army fighters battled US troops. Some 45,000 American troops remain in Iraq, primarily tasked with training and equipping their Iraqi counterparts, although they must all withdraw by the end of the year under the terms of a bilateral security pact.