[Marxism] Mahdi army siezes Baghdad TV station after killings attributed to Sunni groups

Fred Feldman ffeldman at verizon.net
Mon Nov 27 00:59:37 MST 2006

>From website of San Jose Mercury-News


Iraq: the aftermath



By Hannah Allam and Mohamed al Dulaimy


McClatchy Newspapers

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

pedestrian traffic.


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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