[Marxism] Ubiquitous Shiite Rebels Armed and Prepared Hardcore for Battle Anywhere, Anytime

M. Junaid Alam junaidalam at msalam.net
Wed Apr 7 14:21:56 MDT 2004


At Word of U.S. Foray, a Baghdad Militia Erupts

Published: April 7, 2004

AGHDAD, Iraq, April 6 — The word went out on Tuesday at noon, with the 
blast of the call to prayer: American soldiers had raided an office of 
Moktada al-Sadr, the radical Shiite cleric, and torn up a poster of his 
father, one of Iraq's most revered martyrs.

The Khadamiya bazaar exploded in a frenzy. Shopkeepers reached beneath 
stacks of sandals for Kalashnikov rifles. Boys wrapped their faces in 
black cloth. Men raced through the streets, kicking over crates and 
setting up barriers. Some handed out grenades. Within minutes this 
entire Shiite neighborhood in central Baghdad had mobilized for war.

"We're going to attack a tank!" yelled Majid Hamid, 32, waving an 
assault rifle.

The incident was another example of the power vacuum spreading across 
Iraq — during the disturbance in Khadamiya, there were no American 
soldiers, no Iraqi police and no order. It also cut to the heart of the 
militia issue, which remains a problem despite the occupation 
authorities' insistence that private armies disband. And it showed the 
depth of support for Mr. Sadr, the firebrand cleric who is blamed for 
the most serious insurrection yet and is now wanted by the Americans.

American officials estimate the number of people in his private army at 
3,000. But as the display of force o Tuesday showed, there were 
thousands of men and boys in just one Baghdad neighborhood ready to 
fight for Mr. Sadr. And as battles raged throughout the country, in 
Sunni bastions like Falluja and Ramadi and in Shiite areas like Sadr 
City, it was growing increasingly clear that the militias could 
materialize almost instantaneously. While many people — bakers, 
teachers, sandwich makers — hold normal jobs, when the call comes, they 
line up with Mr. Sadr's force, the Mahdi Army.

"This man is not a firefighter," said Lt. Mohammed Abu Kadar, tapping 
one of his men on the shoulder outside a fire station in Khadamiya. "He 
is Mahdi Army."

"This man, too," the lieutenant, a two-star officer of the Iraqi Civil 
Defense Corps, said, grabbing another firefighter. "He may wear this 
uniform, but he is Mahdi Army."

Then the lieutenant tapped his own chest. "We may work for the 
government now," Lieutenant Kadar said. "But if anything happens, we all 
work for Sadr."

FULL: http://www.nytimes.com/2004/04/07/international/middleeast/07SADR.html

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