[Marxism] Sadrists battle Iraqi troops

Louis Proyect 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 O’NEIL

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.

Today’s violence comes after at least 52 people were killed on Sunday and a 
suicide car bomb attacked Iraq’s 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 
city’s 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 capital’s deadliest 
neighborhoods had succeeded in cutting the city’s 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 today’s 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 city’s 
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 newspaper’s 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 building’s 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 newspaper’s 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 Zarqawi’s 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 
government’s 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 
said.

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 government’s 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. Maliki’s 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 don’t know what will be Iraq’s 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 
Newspapers.

Paul von Zielbauer reported for this article from Baghdad and John O’Neil 
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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