[Marxism] Iraqi and British troops fight Shiite militias
lnp3 at panix.com
Thu Aug 17 06:46:51 MDT 2006
NY Times, August 17, 2006
Iraqi and British Troops Clash With Shiite Militias
By PAUL von ZIELBAUER
BAGHDAD, Iraq, Aug. 16 Iraqi security forces and British troops fought
Shiite militias and tribesmen in two major cities south of Baghdad on
Wednesday in sustained battles that left two policemen and a dozen
militiamen dead. The violence underscored the tenuous grip the Iraqi
government maintains even in regions not under the sway of Sunni Arab
Also on Wednesday, as American and Iraqi Army soldiers continued a security
sweep through hostile neighborhoods in western Baghdad, bombings in other
parts of the city killed 21 people and wounded 59 others.
Violent eruptions in Karbala, a Shiite holy city about 60 miles southwest
of here, and Basra, Iraqs second largest city, demonstrated the
destabilizing power of internecine conflicts that have little to do with
the anti-American insurgency or sectarian killings.
In Basra, a gun battle erupted between Iraqi Army troops and members of the
dominant local tribe, the Bani Asad, apparently angered by the killing on
Tuesday of a tribal leader, Faisal Raji al-Asadi, government officials in
In a battle that lasted the better part of an hour, tribesmen clad in black
clothing fired fusillades of bullets and grenades at the provincial
government building, local police and government officials said, and
eventually occupied the parts of the government complex.
The building was in the hands of Bani Asad tribe, an Iraqi government
official in Basra said in a telephone interview, speaking over the
sustained crackle of gunfire in the background. He said that the fighting,
which killed six, including two policemen and two tribesmen, started
because the tribe believed that the government was involved in Mr. Asadis
A prominent member of the tribe who called himself Ayatollah al-Asadi
suggested in an interview with Al Jazeera on Wednesday afternoon that
British forces, which have struggled to maintain control of Basra in the
midst of warring Shiite militias, may have been responsible for the
assassination. Faisal Raji al-Asadi contributed to throwing the British
out, he said. Maybe they are taking revenge now.
A spokesman for the British military in Basra denied any involvement in the
killing and gave a much different account of the hostilities on Wednesday.
Bani Asad tribesmen arrived at the government building armed but peaceful
and demanded to see the governor, Muhammad al-Waili, a member of a
different tribe, said the spokesman, Maj. Charlie Burbridge. The
protesters arrived and walked in the door, he said, It wasnt an attack.
Iraqi Army soldiers and local police succeeded in moving the armed men out
of Mr. Wailis offices, he said, though an Iraqi police officer appears to
have been killed in a skirmish that followed. As the tribesmen were leaving
the area, they passed a British military encampment and fired at it,
provoking quite an exchange of small-arms fire that lasted 20 minutes,
Major Burbridge said.
In Karbala, the violence on Wednesday took on a different hue, as security
forces controlled by Shiites who are aligned with the main pro-Iranian
bloc, the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq, fought
militiamen loyal to a local Shiite cleric opposed to Irans influence in
Iraq. The battle led security forces to cordon off the city to most
nonresidents and impose a curfew.
Sheik Ali Badir al-Aboudi, an aide of the cleric, Mahmoud al-Hassani, said
in an interview that the attack on Wednesday was in retaliation for a car
bomb that exploded near one of the clerics schools. We know that Iranian
intelligence helped them to do this attack, Mr. Aboudi said, and now they
are sending in troops to kill and arrest everyone they can.
Ten militia fighters were killed and 281 were arrested, according to a
statement from the prime minister, Nuri Kamal al-Maliki.
Anthony H. Cordesman, a Middle East analyst at the Center for Strategic and
International Studies in Washington, said in an interview on Wednesday that
the majority of police forces in southern Iraq were more loyal to Shiite
leaders than the Iraqi government, and he suggested earlier this month that
power struggles among Shiite factions in Iraq could further destabilize the
Intra-Shiite political struggles are becoming a source of violence, he
wrote in an Aug. 1 analysis. It is unclear how bad this Shiite
factionalism really is, he added, though it may surface as a major new
In Baghdad, three bombs in the central part of the city killed 21 people on
Wednesday, officials said. Around 9 a.m., a roadside bomb in the Nahdad
district in central Baghdad killed 8 people and wounded 17 others, an
Interior Ministry official said. At 7 p.m., two car bombs killed 13 people
and left 43 others wounded, the official said.
The military has charged a Marine officer with assaulting three Iraqi
civilians in April, accusing him of beating and choking them and placing a
pistol in one victims mouth, Reuters reported. The officer, Second Lt.
Nathan Phan, was charged with three counts of assault and one count of
making a false statement relating to the matter, on April 10, near
Hamdania, a town west of Baghdad.
Qais Mizher and Ali Adeeb contributed reporting for this article.
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