A series of bombings struck Baghdad today, killing at least 58, including three bombs targeting the compound of Moktada al-Sadr, a Shia cleric whose anti-American, anti-Sunni streak has not stopped his political party from winning ten percent of the Parliament in March's national elections. The attack was presumably launched by the Iraq-based al-Qaeda branch, two leaders of which were recently killed. Any bombing in Baghdad is an atrocity, but this incident could be especially damaging if it inspires Sadr's group to drop its recent democratic engagement and return to the brutal violence it unleashed in the war's worst years.
Sadr, as well as being a high-profile religious figure, leads the Sadrist political party, which primarily represents the one million residents of Sadr City, an impoverished Baghdad suburb. He also leads the Jaysh al-Mahdi. Also known as the Mahdi Militia, it was responsible for years of brutal attacks against Iraq's Sunni Arab minority. The Mahdi Militia began as part of the Shiite uprising in 2004 to provide security for Sadr City, but later turned to a campaign of violence against Sunni neighborhoods and mosques. In July 2006, masked Shiite militiamen, some of whom were likely associated with the Mahdi Militia, slaughtered 50 civilians in a Sunni neighborhood of Baghdad. The attack began a sectarian conflict that would claim 3,000 Iraqi lives that month alone.