Shi'ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr returned to Iran on Friday after spending a couple of weeks back home in Iraq after a long, self-imposed exile, aides said.
Sadr, whose speeches rallied millions of Iraqi Shi'ites against U.S. forces after the 2003 invasion, slipped out of the country without fanfare.
"Yes, definitely Sayyed Moqtada al-Sadr went back to Iran," a source inside his office said, on condition of anonymity.
It was not immediately clear if the young cleric had returned to Iran temporarily or if he intended to stay a while, perhaps to resume religious studies in the Iranian city of Qom.
One senior former member of Sadr's Mehdi Army militia said his return to Iran was a "surprise" while a member of his political bloc said he was expected to come back soon.
Sadr's return to Iraq on Jan. 5 rattled the political establishment, more than three years after he fled the country facing an old arrest warrant brought against him by U.S. administrators.
Sadr's movement has become a powerful political force in Iraq after winning 39 parliamentary seats in last year's election and playing a pivotal role in securing Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki's reappointment last month.
Sadr, whose militia battled U.S. troops twice in 2004 but was crushed by Maliki in a U.S.-Iraqi offensive in 2008, demanded in his first public speech after his return that the government honour a promise not to allow U.S. troops to stay.
ReutersLast Mod: 22 Ocak 2011, 09:13