[Marxism] Sadrists battle Iraqi troops
lnp3 at panix.com
Mon Aug 28 11:55:25 MDT 2006
NY Times, August 28, 2006
Shiite Militia Clashes With Iraqi Troops
By PAUL VON ZIELBAUER and JOHN ONEIL
BAGHDAD, Iraq, Aug. 28 Members of a Shiite militia killed at least 15
Iraqi soldiers in fierce fighting today in the southern city of Diwaniya,
Iraqi officials said.
Some of the soldiers were executed in a public square after they ran out of
ammunition, said Maj. Gen. Othman al-Ghanimi, the commander of the Iraqi
army in the area. He said that the fighting began overnight after soldiers
arrested a man linked to the Mahdi Army, a militia loyal to Moqtada al-Sadr.
General Ghanimi said the fighting was still raging after more than 12
hours. The clashes are still going on, and some of the neighborhoods are
under the control of the militias, he said this afternoon. What is going
on is street battles inside the city.
Lt. Col. Ali Hilal, a member of the Iraqi police in the southern city, said
that 15 soldiers had been killed and 35 people were wounded. News services
gave higher estimates for the death toll; The Associated Press quoted a
hospital official who said that 25 soldiers had been killed, along with
seven civilians and two militia members, while Reuters reported that a
spokesman for the Defense Ministry said 20 soldiers and 50 gunmen had
died in the fighting.
In Baghdad today, the American military announced the death of nine
soldiers over the weekend, and a car bomb detonated at a checkpoint outside
the Interior Ministry building, killing 13 people and wounding 35 others,
according to an Iraqi official.
Todays violence comes after at least 52 people were killed on Sunday and a
suicide car bomb attacked Iraqs largest newspaper.
The American dead on Sunday included four soldiers killed by a single
roadside bomb about 18 miles north of Baghdad, one killed by gunfire in the
citys eastern section and three others killed elsewhere in the area by
roadside bombs, according to Maj. Steve Stover, a military spokesman.
Another soldier was killed at about 11 p.m. Saturday night by a bomb in
southeastern Baghdad, he said.
Despite the spate of deadly attacks in Baghdad, a spokesman for the
American military said today that a crackdown in the capitals deadliest
neighborhoods had succeeded in cutting the citys murder rate almost in
half in August compared with July.
Focused effort continues in Baghdad, and there are signs of progress,
the spokesman, Maj. Gen. William B. Caldwell IV, said in a televised
briefing. Still, he said, fully breaking the cycle of killing in Baghdad
would the work of months, not weeks.
In Diwaniya, General Ghanimi said that the roots of todays clashes lay in
an explosion last week aimed at the chief of staff of the army forces
there. The bomb killed two soldiers, and was planted by someone loyal to
Mr. Sadr, he said. Members of the Mahdi Army asked for his release, and
began attacking police stations at about 11 Sunday night after it was
refused, he said.
The clashes reached a point when members of the militias executed soldiers
after their ammunition ran out in one of the public squares in front of the
residents, General Ghanimi said. This is true terrorism.
Sheik Abdul-Razaq al-Nidawi, described by The A.P. as the citys
representative for Mr. Sadr, said that the Iraqi army pulled out of
Diwaniya and the Mahdi army is in a state of high alert.
Asked about the Mahdi army, General Caldwell said that American forces were
concentrating on death squads and others involved in sectarian killings,
but he said there was no effort to move against any particular group.
We are targeting those individuals who are operating outside of the law,
he said. We are not targeting any specific organization.
General Caldwell also said that police forces were being reviewed to weed
out members who were members of militias. Individual officers were being
asked to make clear that their primary allegiance is to the government of
Iraq, and any who are not willing to swear to that are being removed, he said.
The bombing on Sunday of Al-Sabah, a national newspaper financed by the
Shiite-led Iraqi government, also destroyed more than a dozen vehicles and
caused the collapse of a quarter of the building where journalists and
printing-press operators work, said the executive editor, Falah al-Mishaal.
The attack occurred around 8:30 a.m., as guards carrying automatic assault
rifles grew suspicious of the vehicle after it had been cleared to enter
the newspapers parking lot, Mr. Mishaal said in an interview. Before the
bomber could be killed, he blew up his vehicle, sending at least two parked
cars through the buildings wall.
Tomorrow we will return to work again, Mr. Mishaal said.
The attack was the second on Al-Sabah which means morning in Arabic
in three months. On May 6, a suicide bomber in a car set off an explosion
at the newspapers main vehicle checkpoint, killing one person and wounding
several others, Mr. Mishaal said.
He blamed the attacks on Iraqi insurgent and foreign terrorist groups in
the mold of the one founded by Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the Jordanian leader
of Al Qaeda in Iraq who was killed in an American air strike in June.
We have received many threats from Zarqawis assistant, Mr. Mishaal said.
We published them in the newspaper.
He said he believed that the bombing was also in retaliation for a meeting
of Iraqi television and newspaper editors organized by his newspaper this
month where the editors were to sign a pledge of honor to respect the
governments reconciliation efforts and to avoid printing or broadcasting
inflammatory statements or violent images.
This is an attack against all Iraqi media, Mr. Mishaal said in a
telephone interview. It is a kind of challenge and an attempt to get rid
of all free Iraqi media.
At least 16 journalists working for Al-Sabah and a government-run Baghdad
television station have been killed since 2003, news media executives here
In a statement, Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki strongly denounced
the attack on Al-Sabah, which he called a pioneering media organization
confronting terror, serving the truth and consolidating unity and national
coherence. Furthermore, he vowed to capture the people behind it.
And yet, in remarks closely following similarly upbeat statements by
American military officials in Baghdad, the prime minister also sought to
lend optimism to his governments efforts to bring security to Baghdad and
other parts of the country, and to rule out the possibility of civil war.
We are not in a civil war; Iraq will never be in a civil war, he said,
through an interpreter, in an interview with CNN on Sunday. The violence
is in decrease, and our security ability is increasing.
Mr. Malikis statement stood in contrast to a far bleaker assessment he
made in a speech to Parliament on July 12, when he said the country had one
last chance to eliminate the sectarian and insurgent attacks
destabilizing the country, and warned lawmakers that if that fails God
forbid I dont know what will be Iraqs fate.
Also on Sunday, an Iraqi government official said the prison run by the
American military at Abu Ghraib, which became notorious for the abuse of
Iraqi inmates by American soldiers, had been emptied of inmates and was now
under the control of the Justice Ministry.
Saad Sultan, the supervisor of detention facilities in the Human Rights
Ministry, said in an interview that more than 3,000 prisoners in American
custody had been transferred to a detention facility at Camp Cropper, an
American military base near Baghdad International Airport, on Aug. 15.
Mr. Sultan said the transfer was done for security reasons, because Abu
Ghraib is an unsafe area.
The closing of the prison was reported earlier on Sunday by McClatchy
Paul von Zielbauer reported for this article from Baghdad and John ONeil
from New York. Ali Adeeb, Abdul Razzaq al-Saiedi, Omar al-Neami and Khalid
al-Ansary contributed reporting for this article.
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