[Marxism] Mahdi army siezes Baghdad TV station after killings attributed to Sunni groups
ffeldman at verizon.net
Mon Nov 27 00:59:37 MST 2006
>From website of San Jose Mercury-News
Iraq: the aftermath
AL-SADR LOYALISTS TAKE OVER IRAQI TELEVISION STATION
By Hannah Allam and Mohamed al Dulaimy
November 25, 2006
BAGHDAD -- Followers of the militant Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr took
over state-run television Saturday to denounce the Iraqi government, label
Sunnis "terrorists," and issue what appeared to many viewers as a call to
The two-hour broadcast from a community gathering in the heart of the
Shiite militia stronghold of Sadr City included three members of al-Sadr's
parliamentary bloc, who took questions from outraged residents demanding
revenge for a series of car bombings that killed some 200 people Thursday.
With Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki relegated to the sidelines,
brazen Sunni-Shiite attacks continue unchecked despite a 24-hour curfew
over Baghdad. Al-Sadr's Mahdi Army militia now controls wide swaths of
the capital, his politicians are the backbone of the Cabinet, and his
followers deeply entrenched in the Iraqi security forces. Sectarian
violence has spun so rapidly out of control since the Sadr City blasts,
however, that it's not clear whether even al-Sadr has the authority -- or
the will -- to stop the cycle of bloodshed.
"This is live and, God willing, everyone will hear me: We are not
interested in sidewalks, water services, or anything else. We want
safety," an unidentified Sadr City resident said as the televised crowd
cheered. "We want the officials. They say there is no sectarian war.
No, it is sectarian war, and that's the truth."
Militia leaders told supporters Saturday to prepare for a fresh wave of
incursions into Sunni neighborhoods that would begin as soon as the curfew
ends Monday, according to Sadr City residents. Several members of the
Mahdi Army boasted they were distributing police uniforms throughout
Shiite neighborhoods to allow greater freedom of movement. The government
announced it would partially lift the curfew Sunday to allow for
In the Diyala province north of Baghdad, Sunni insurgents stormed into two
Shiite homes, lined up 21 men and shot them to death in front of women and
children, police there said. Later in the day, a Shiite television
station showed footage of the victims' burials.
And in the western province of Anbar, a suicide bombing at a checkpoint in
Fallujah killed a U.S. serviceman and three Iraqi civilians, according to
a U.S. military statement. Another American and nine Iraqis were injured.
Also Saturday, Iraq's most prominent Sunni cleric made an appeal in Cairo,
Egypt, for Arab nations to withdraw recognition of Iraq's Shiite-led
government and said U.S.-led troops were complicit in Iraq's sectarian
crisis. Hareth al-Dhari, leader of the militant Association of Muslim
Scholars, declared Iraqi efforts toward a unity government "dead" and said
the current violence is political rather than theological.
"The occupying forces have been giving cover to the militias and criminal
gangs," al-Dhari said. "The government has been seen setting the
atmosphere for them with the curfews to aid them in catching the victims
and carrying out their attacks."
Al-Maliki's administration acknowledged it was powerless to interrupt the
pro-Sadr program on the official Iraqiya channel, during which Sadr City
residents shouted, "There is no government! There is no state!" Several
speakers described neighborhoods and well-known Sunni politicians as
"terrorists" and threatened them with reprisal.
"We'll obviously try to control them as much as we can, but when they
(kill) more than 150 people in bombings, they have the right to speak,"
said Bassam al Husseini, one of Maliki's top advisers. "What are we going
to do? We can't stop this. It's too hot right now."
Sunni politicians vowed to file complaints against the channel for
inciting sectarian violence. Ordinary Sunnis were shocked to hear their
neighborhoods singled out for attack on the government's station.
"I got four phone calls from friends telling me to change the channel to
Iraqiya and see what's happening," said Mohamed Othman, 27, a Sunni
resident of Ameriya, one of the districts mentioned in the program. "I
think this is an official declaration of civil war against Sunnis.
They're going to push us to join al-Qaida to protect ourselves."
Al-Husseini, the government adviser, also affirmed that a meeting between
al-Maliki and President Bush would continue as scheduled next week in
neighboring Jordan, despite the threats of al-Sadr's allies to withdraw
from the government if it occurs. The Cabinet met for more than an hour
to hash out an agenda for the trip, he said.
"The meeting will take place. That's the plan," al-Husseini said. "We
need to straighten things up."
Al-Husseini said the top two items of discussion would be a report from
the Iraq Study Group, a bipartisan commission that will make
recommendations for U.S. policy in Iraq, and a timetable for a withdrawal
of U.S.-led forces.
"We want to talk about it," al-Husseini said, "to ask, 'How long are they
going to stick around?"
--McClatchy Newspapers special correspondent Miret el Naggar in Cairo
contributed to this report.
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