Iraq elections: who is Moqtada al-Sadr?

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Shia preacher who opposed US-led invasion and led uprisings against troops has taken a surprise lead in Iraq’s parliamentary elections

The influence of Moqtada al-Sadr, the 44-year-old Shia cleric whose Sairoon coalition has emerged as a leading player on Iraq’s political scene, is as much about his family name as his personality, theological learning or political acumen.

Sadr first came to prominence as a preacher in the weeks after the US invasion of Iraq, in 2003, opposing the US-led occupation. His militant followers, including the Mahdi army, were responsible for attacks on US and British soldiers, fuelled violent sectarianism against Iraq’s Sunni Muslims, and dabbled in protection rackets and kidnapping.

Related: Cleric who fought US takes surprise lead in Iraq elections

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