[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
By JEFFREY GETTLEMAN
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
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."
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