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Supporters Deny Reports That Sadr Is in Iran

Reports from Baghdad say radical Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr has left Iraq for Iran. Several of Sadr's aides emphatically reject the reports, though none say exactly where their leader is.

The news comes as Iraqi forces involved in a new security plan have begun their crackdown. The overnight curfew in Baghdad is being extended by an hour and new checkpoints have tangled traffic across the city. And Iraq's prime minister, Nouri al-Maliki, says the government plans to close Iraq's borders with Iran and Syria for three days.

Sadr and his Mahdi Army militia — accused of involvement in sectarian violence — have come under pressure from the government's new security efforts. While Sadr remains on the government's "no-touch" list, Maliki has lifted his protection of Sadr's aides and militiamen. U.S. forces have recently killed or detained hundreds of Sadr associates.

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Renee Montagne, one of the best-known names in public radio, is a special correspondent and host for NPR News.
Anne Garrels
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