In a deadly expression of feelings that until now were kept quiet, a group representing local residents is said to have killed at least five militiamen in the last four days.
The murders are the first sign of organised Iraqi opposition to Sadrís presence and come amid simmering discontent at the havoc their lawless presence has wreaked.
The group calls itself the Thulfiqar Army, after a twin-bladed sword said to be used by the Shiite martyr Imam Ali, to whom Najafís vast central mosque is dedicated.
Residents say leaflets bearing that name have been circulated in the city in the last week, urging Sadrís al-Mahdi army to leave immediately or face imminent death. . . .
"It has got some of the Mahdi guys quite worried, I tell you. They are banding together more, when normally you would see them happily walking on the streets alone. I think their commanders have ordered them to do that."